Monday, December 31, 2007

Top Ten Things to Look Forward To in 2008

superhero movies: The Dark Knight & Iron Man
the end of the writers' strike
new books to read, old books to revisit
visiting our friends Mark & Andrea in New Orleans
a quick Florida trip in January
a nephew! (and at least three other babies to welcome)
our annual trek to the Canadian Icewine Festival
a food and wine tour of Italy
every minute I get to spend with G
an election

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Top Meals 2007

Mom's birthday lunch at Zingerman's Roadhouse/Ann Arbor-simple chicken salad and BLT taken to new heights
Lunch at Simply Red Bistro/Finger Lakes, NY-a perfect lunch on a wine touring day
Dinner at Dinosaur Barbecue/Syracuse, NY-Lived up to the hype!
Lunch at Bar Americain/New York City-Fancy schmancy American food courtesy of Bobby Flay
Breakfast at Wishbone/Chicago-We couldn't wait to wake up and head over for crunchy French toast and red eggs
Prime rib Christmas dinners/North East, PA & Grand Blanc, MI-Delectable dinners made for me & G
Traverse City weekend-every meal we had was heavenly (Hanna Bistro, Amical, Patisserie Amie)
Christmas dinner at Eve/Ann Arbor-We'll be going back for happy hour nachos and red wine
New Year's Eve at Zingerman's Roadhouse/Ann Arbor-A tour of American food: goat cheese fondue, oyster stew, black-eyed peas and ham, lobster thermidor, delmonico steak, and a trio of creme brulees. One word: OMIGOD

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Top Movies 2007

These are not necessarily films that were released in 2007. These are films that I saw for the very first time this year. They range from crowd pleasing to chilling to magical.

Invincible
Murder, My Sweet
The Departed
Children of Men
Zodiac
The Bourne Ultimatum
Ratatouille
Once
The Lives of Others
The Lookout
Michael Clayton

Friday, December 28, 2007

Top TV Moments 2007

The continued genius of 30 Rock

Pam and Jim finally becoming a couple on The Office

Jaime Pressly winning a well-deserved Emmy for her portrayal of Joy Turner on My Name is Earl

The Amazing Race (12) contestants' attempt to milk camels

Martin Short as host or presenter or guest star on anything

Starbuck's death and eventual return on Battlestar Galactica

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Top Music 2007

I thought I'd list my favorite musical moments of 2007:

Jennifer Hudson's solo/star moment in Dreamgirls

kd lang in concert at Hill Auditorium

Duncan Sheik in concert at The Ark

Kim Richey, also at The ark, closing her set with a beautiful rendition of It's a Wonderful World

New CDs from Kelly Willis, Gretchen Peters, and Trisha Yearwood

The entire cast album of Hairspray

Raul Malo's Christmas CD, It's a Marshmallow World

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Top Reads 2007

I read over fifty books this year. These are the stories that I found to be compelling or entertaining or hysterical. Sometimes all three.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows/JK Rowling
Into the Wild/Jon Krakauer
Little Children/Tom Perrotta
Peter Diamond series/Peter Lovesey
Notes on a Scandal/Zoe Heller
Eat, Pray, Love/Elizabeth Gilbert
The Golden Compass/Philip Pullman

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!


Seasons' greetings and joyous wishes to all.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Italy

Have I shared that I'm going to Italy in 2008? I just dropped off the final payment for the trip so I guess it's really happening. My brain hasn't quite realized it yet.

A chef at school is taking a group of fifteen students to Tuscany next semester and I was lucky enough to sign up and join in the crazy fun. We'll be flying into Rome and then traveling to Tuscany for a week where we'll take some cooking classes and attend wine tastings. During our down time we'll be able to sightsee, of course and take an excursion to Florence. I think we'll visit the Vatican on our last day in Italy.

I've not been to Italy (my one overseas experience was a glorious trip to France in 2005), so I am ecstatic. My mom-in-law gave me some Italy travel guides for Christmas so I'll be poring over those during my break from school.

If you've been to Italy and have some pointers or recommendations (for food!), please feel free to share.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hairspray


I have had a smile on my face all day after watching Hairspray on DVD. What a fun movie moment. Newcomer Nikki Blonsky is the heart of the film and she's fantastic. From the opening notes of "Good Morning, Baltimore," the movie charmed me until the final credits.

I'm always awed by people in show biz who have resumes that are, ahem, less than stellar. How do these people keep working in Hollywood? Adam Shankman, director of Hairspray, has credits including The Wedding Planner, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, and The Pacifier. If I'd read that bio first, I probably wouldn't have bothered watching Hairspray anytime soon.

Not only did Shankman do a great job at the helm of Hairspray, he choreographed the film as well. That talent is mindboggling, especially for someone who has been wading in schlock for years now.

I loved seeing the older actors dancing and singing (Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfeiffer, and yes, Travolta in drag), but the younger cast was equally impressive. Everyone looked like they had a blast making the film.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Cookies

Here's what I made this year:

gingersnaps
coconut macaroons
raspberry lemon thumbprints
mint chocolate chip cookies
heath toffee bars
almond macaroons
white chocolate cranberry cookies
peanut butter bars
cranberry bars
oatmeal raisin
kahlua espresso brownies

Monday, December 17, 2007

I'm Back

First of all, that cold really knocked me out. It lasted forever. Grrrr. I tried going to class on a Tuesday morning, I showered and everything, but just as I was reaching for my coat, I had a minutes-long hacking spell and then a nosebleed. I waved a white flag and stayed home one more day. Plus, (and this is my last gripe, I promise), G was out-of-town for work all week long. Being sick and alone is not fun. I was quickly turning into a Grinch.

Now I am breathing normally again and sneeze-free. Hallelujah! Another reason to shout out: dining room service is over. We took our final on Friday and then met at our usual hangout for drinks. Boy, did we hate that class. We got through it though. I even prepared and served Bananas Foster tableside and did not set anything or anyone aflame. I really didn't mind waiting on tables. I got into a groove and our class is a great group of people. We are a Team. My favorite role was hostess though. That seems to be more me. I enjoyed greeted people and taking them to their seats, passing all of the beautiful desserts on display. I was able to share some witty repartee and get some laughs. When the guests were seated, they really didn't want to chat or pay attention to the servers at all. Yawn.

Next up: a month long break.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sick Day

Actually, it should be sick days, plural. The cocktail party was a big success. We were a little concerned at first because a winter storm decided to arrive as the same time as our guests. Some people couldn't make it, but we still had a sizable turnout. G and I were thrilled.

The spirits of the evening helped me to ignore my cold symptoms. But once the party was over and I kicked off my to die for bright red pumps, I slumped on the couch and succumbed to my cold. My senses are completely dulled (I was told that wonderful aromas came from my kitchen on Saturday, but I wouldn't have known that). I even lost my voice today. (Merry Christmas, G!)

I'm taking advantage of the down time though. I'm watching classic cartoons (Flintstones, Top Cat...great sick day TV), finishing my Christmas shopping online, and I read Into the Wild, definitely one of my favorites of '07. I'm hoping that I can sneak in a matinee of the film one day this week after class.

Food is not thrilling me right now. I can't taste a thing. I just made some orzo for lunch, adding lots of pepper and garlic in the hope that I can enjoy a meal for the first time in three days.

Next up: Law & Order reruns, my next read (The Making of a Chef), more meds, and a nap.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Today's Challenge

G and I are having our annual holiday cocktail party tonight. The challenge? I was lucky enough to get a killer cold this week. I'm sitting here with a cup of hot tea wondering how the appetizers are going to get made. Ugh.

I'm happy it's December though. Time to usher in the holidays. But I predict I'll have a date with my bed and big box of kleenex tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Flatscreen + Direct TV = Heaven

About a month ago, we finally purchased the plasma TV we've been dreaming about for ages. It now has a place of honor above our fireplace in the living room.

There happened to be a promotional offer to switch to Direct TV. We hate our cable company so we took the opportunity to ditch them (and save some money).

Between the lineup of new channels and the clarity of the picture (football in HD? The best)...sigh. I'm sorry, I'm starting to get emotional.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Discoveries


I had to attend a meeting at school last night. G graciously acted as chauffeur instead of sitting at home; he took a book and relaxed at a Caribou Coffee for an hour. Afterwards, we stopped for a sandwich for dinner and found this little wine shop right next to campus. What a find!

We spent the next hour comfortable and warm, tasting wine, and chatting with other wine lovers. A little slice of heaven in a Livonia strip mall. Who knew?

Favorite:

Layer Cake Shiraz, Australia

Monday, November 26, 2007

Time Off

I was super busy last week preparing for Thanksgiving dinner and family visits. Now that I've definitely entered the Holiday Zone, I won't be posting daily for the rest of the year.

Please stay tuned!

Leftovers

I'm becoming more ambitious with my Thanksgiving leftovers. Figuring out ways to use up the turkey and stuffing, etc. is almost as fun as creating the whole dinner.

This year, I fried up some stuffing the morning after Thanksgiving and served it hash-style with a fried egg on top. We had grilled turkey sandwiches, spread with cranberry sauce, some gravy, and a slice of cheddar cheese. Saturday morning, I made a cranberry cheese danish. Yesterday, I made a turkey sage chowder, using the rest of the turkey, some potatoes, and the leftover veggies I had in the fridge.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I'm Grateful For...(Thanksgiving Edition '07)

Gregg

Our family

Our home

A stress-free Thanksgiving

Days off from dining room service

Champagne cocktails

Great football games (four overtimes??)

Charlie Brown holiday specials

Online shopping

Tree trimming during the first snowfall

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Dinner

Our dinner turned out really well. Here was the menu:

Champagne Cocktails
Sweet and Spicy Nuts

Butternut Squash Soup
Herb Roasted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy
Fennel/Pear/Sausage Stuffing
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Triple Cranberry Sauce
Green Beans with Caramelized Onions
Carrots with Balsamic Glaze
Rolls
Red & White Wines

Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake
Apple Crostata

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pep Rally

Michigan alum G received an email today about a Michigan/OSU pep rally tonight on campus. When I arrived home from waiting tables today, he asked, "Do you want to go?" Of course!

We bundled up in our winter coats, gloves, and earmuffs and made our way to campus. What a spectacle. Thousands of fans showed up to cheer the team. We even saw a few people in Ohio State garb. What nerve they had attending our rally. Talk about brave.

I didn't get to see much (being 5'1" and all), but I heard Mike Hart rallying the crowd. We sang the fight song and chanted...it was definitely the place to be tonight. G and I left a little early because our hunger couldn't be ignored. We went to Pizza House (large pepperoni and mushrooms...mmmmm...) and enjoyed the crowds of fans inside. A bunch of guests stood up at one point and sang the Michigan fight song.

All that's left now is the battle between archenemies tomorrow at noon.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dining Room Service

The last class in this semester's rotation is Dining Room Service. Four days a week, our class will act as waitstaff for the school's restaurant, American Harvest. The point of this class (besides free labor for the school again) is to become acquainted with front of the house duties.

I have never waited on tables in my life, so this class proves to be entertaining. We still have to wear uniforms, but now it's black pants, white blouse, a black tie (I chose to wear a bow tie), and an apron. No dorky chef hat. Whoo hoo!

Each shift, we all have "side work" prior to service. My task is to make sure that we are stocked with butter, lemons, canned/bottled beverages, takeout containers, doilies, and linens. The menu changes each day so at 11:30 AM we line up and listen to the chef describe that day's menu. The pastry class makes desserts each day and we have to familiarize ourselves with those as well. A second year culinary class makes the food and we serve it.

So many details...serve from the left, retrieve from the right...garnish the soup correctly (today's soup was puree of corn with rock shrimp, garnished with cracked black pepper, lobster oil, and cilantro)...place the dessert plate properly (the point of the dessert (cake, pie, etc.) should point to the guest (always say guest, never customer)...

And no, we don't get to keep the tips. They go to a scholarship fund.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Call Me Old Fashioned...

but there's just something wrong with this headline I found this morning on msn.com:

How to Date While Pregnant

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Slacker

I'm sitting at a coffee shop right now enjoying my first white chocolate mocha of the season. Dee-lish. I've exiled myself here for the afternoon so that I can catch up on my posts. I've started half a dozen in the last week but I haven't been able to finish them. So, yes, I've been slacking off here, but not in my real life. Once my finals were over last week, I realized that I then entered the holiday zone.

My thoughts are swirling with Thanksgiving recipes, table setting ideas, wines and cocktails, Christmas lists, when to start shopping, etc...

Then there are the dull, but necessary thoughts: clean the house, mop the floor, prepare for guests...

But right now, I'm focused on this. And my tasty mocha.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gym Again

Today was my first trip to the gym in weeks. We belong to a community gym that is super convenient. Just a five minute drive (with traffic lights) straight north from our street. That street has been under construction for a few months though and I've used that as my main excuse for not visiting the gym.

The barrels are gone now and my waistline has expanded so it's back to the gym I go. When I pulled into the parking lot this morning, the first thing I saw was a woman leaving the gym lighting up a cigarette. So I entered the gym chuckling to myself. Ah, and that brings back the childhood memories of going for bike rides with my parents. Sometimes they would light up while they were pedaling alongside me. I would always try to speed up. They probably thought I was avoiding the smoke. Actually, I was trying to make sure that no one thought I was with them.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Paper and Pen

Since sending holiday cards is on my to do list, I thought I'd write about my lifelong love of pen and paper.

The minute I held a pen, I never wanted to let it go. Just the exercise of writing fascinated me. It didn't matter what I wrote. My name over and over again, a letter (even to a school friend who lived two blocks away), a list of the films of Hitchcock or Spielberg (to keep myself awake in a boring class), a recipe. I started writing in a journal at age ten, not only because I was overly analytical, but because I wanted to spend time with that paper and pen.

Collecting new pens and pencils as well as stationery became a hobby for me. To this day, I can't write with what I call a boring pen. A black or blue Bic? No thanks. I won't even bother to pick up one of those. My stationery drawer isn't as full as it used to be since email became THE way to communicate. But I still try to write a few notes to my friends across the country. It's already become a lost art form. My sister-in-law gave me notecards in the shape of high heel shoes once. And my dad gave me Super Friends notecards one Christmas. I was beside myself.

I've always given the keyboard equal time, as the head typist for my high school newspaper (all those years at the piano gave me speedy fingers), as the writer of many a college term paper, and now as a blogger. But I still prefer sitting down at my desk with a spiral notebook or Aquaman notecard and putting pen to paper.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Football Brunch

Because the football game was at noon today, I decided to make some brunch food. When G & I were in California for our dreamy honeymoon last year, we found a breakfast burrito to die for. When we returned home, we recreated it and made it an easy go to meal for our repertoire.

All I do is scramble some eggs (with hot sauce), heat up some refried beans and a few tortillas, and then assemble the burrito along with some green onions, cheese, salsa, and guacamole. For our accompaniment today, I baked some of G's favorite muffins, apple cranberry. To wash it all down, mimosas.

Friday, November 9, 2007

CMA Award Night


I had to address the Country Music Awards. The live show was on last Wednesday night. I've seen my share of CMA shows (since my initiation to listening to country radio circa 1992) and this one was well done. Well directed, well produced...but don't get me started on the rotating (mostly poor) hosts. Just let Kimberly Williams do the job. She's married to country star Brad Paisley and is always a riot in front of a microphone.

The live performances were mostly non-cringeworthy, which is actually a high compliment. The one complaint I had was that the tradition of country music wasn't showcased. This year's Hall of Fame inductees weren't given a segment (especially a shame since Vince Gill, at the ripe age of 50, was honored.) Yes, it's hard to balance all of the traditional/contemporary/middle-of-the-road acts in three hours, but come on! The producers let Rascal Flatts perform twice. Ridiculous.

The best performances included: Sugarland, a duo, that performed a ballad with one guitar and Jennifer Nettles' powerhouse voice; a very emotional Kellie Pickler (someone I've never even heard before); new Grand Ole Opry member Josh Turner (now that's a country voice); and the always great Keith Urban.

(postscript: G asked, "Why do these country people use the Star Trek symbol?")

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Madeleine Peyroux Concert


One of my favorite finds in the music bin last year was Madeleine Peyroux.

Peyroux was born in Georgia and lived there until age 13 when her family moved to Paris. At 26, she released her debut album, Dreamland. It was a hit with critics and fellow artists, but the bigger story turned out to be that Peyroux didn't release her sophomore effort, Careless Love, until eight years later.

She's been called a modern-day Billie Holiday. Even though her work has been labeled jazz, you can find blues on her albums, as well as songs from the country genre, such as Patsy Cline's Walkin' After Midnight. I've become a big fan and listen to all of her CDs (a third, Half the Perfect World, was released in 2006), so I was looking forward to her live concert in Ann Arbor.

Peyroux performed at Hill Auditorium, a venue on the U of M campus that seats around 3,500. She brought with her a keyboardist, a bass player, and a guitarist. She also accompanied on guitar. My expectations for the concert were high and unfortunately, they were not met. First of all, the mood was very laid back (think Chet Baker and a few jazz players hanging out) and I think the large auditorium dwarfed the performers. Peyroux was extremely laid back, almost hippie-ish. Don't get me wrong, I love hippies. I would've been a hippie protester in the 60s if I'd been around. But the catalog that she chooses to sing is timeless and classy, so I expected a different delivery. Even a different wardrobe choice. Is that being superficial?

OK, enough about the trappings, how was the music? Well...the musicians were talented. I thought that the arrangements were uninspired and predictable (every song had a piano solo, then a guitar solo) and Peyroux's singing was too improvisational for my taste. I guess I happen to side with those people who go to concerts to hear songs that they know and love. The songs don't have to be exactly like the recording (dullsville). But as G said, "I've heard you play her CDs and I don't recognize a single song she's singing."

It pains me to write this. I don't want to dissuade you from listening to Madeleine Peyroux. Maybe she just an off night. I still recommend that you check her out on iTunes, especially if you like standards.

Fave tracks:
Don't Wait Too Long
This is Heaven to Me
I'm All Right
A Little Bit

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Food Tech Final

When I woke up this morning, I opened my eyes and the first thoughts running through my brain were: "Take out the butter first thing so it comes to room temp." "Don't forget to slice some garlic to infuse the olive oil for the snow peas." "Make sure to sear those scallops in a really hot pan."

I arrived at school and set up my station. Initially, I felt like I'd never cooked a thing in that kitchen. My brain was on vacation. But I finally got in my groove and worked hard to produce some great tasting food for the chef.

The chef loved my seasoning, he loved my food. I am sooooo happy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

New Microwave

Last July, I was in the kitchen cooking lunch (per usual). I'd placed a few strips of bacon in the microwave (which sat on the kitchen counter). Now I'd done this, cook bacon in the microwave, dozens of times before, but this particular time the dish, the microwave, the glass plate in the microwave, (I never was completely sure) decided to explode. Luckily I was on the other side of the kitchen with my head in the refrigerator because glass flew across the kitchen. The explosion scared the living daylights out of me.

After cleaning up and ditching the microwave, G and I enjoyed the extra counterspace, truly appreciated our other nonexploding appliances, and lived microwave-free for months. We'd originally planned to have a microwave installed above our stovetop, so we just waited until we were ready for that. Well, yesterday was the day.

I remember sitting in a lunch room at work years ago listening to the other women chat. They had a big conversation about vacuum cleaners, types they preferred, price comparisons. When the conversation came to an end, I remember saying, "If there comes a day that I sit and talk at length about my vacuum cleaner, I hope someone just shoots me."

And here I am writing about my microwave.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Knees are Knockin'

My practical exam in Food Tech is this week and I'm nervous. I spent most of the day studying and creating a work plan.

Here's my mission:

Beef Consomme with Brunoise Vegetables and Fine Noodles
Pan Seared Scallops with Saffron Tomato Infused Beurre Blanc
Fresh Snow Peas
Tourneed Parsley Boiled Potatoes

Tuesday's class will be entirely prep (mise en place) for cooking on Wednesday.

The trickiest part of the menu is the fact that the potatoes are tourneed, which is a knife cut that shapes the potato into an oblong, sort of a football shape with blunt ends. Ugh. Other than that, the fine noodles are homemade which causes me stress. The day that we made pasta in class was not extremely successful.

Other than those possible pitfalls, the menu is pretty simple. All I have to do on Wednesday is make the consomme (throw a bunch of ingredients in a pot and let it simmer), sear some scallops (which I can do in my sleep, and sometimes do), and boil some veg. Yes, I've not addressed the beurre blanc, but it's a sauce. I should be able to handle sauces. Besides, I'll practice that in my own kitchen a few times before Wednesday.

This is sort of an Iron Chef America on training wheels.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Lazy Sunday


I didn't really do anything today. OK, I read a tiny bit, I made breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I started to study for my final. I did one load of laundry that's still sitting in the washer. Oops...better go put those clothes in the dryer after I write my post.

Other than that, I sat on the couch and watched Aeon Flux and the Cleveland Browns/Seattle Seahawks game (the Browns were victorious in O/T!) Total laziness.

I did want to write about the dinner G & I enjoyed at Mom's last weekend though. We drove up and spent the afternoon noshing and watching college football. A perfect Saturday. Mom made dill dip and veggies, ribs, cole slaw, and cheesy broccoli. I brought a mashed potato casserole and dessert, a French cranberry apple pie. The meal was delicious. And my stepdad introduced me to a tasty beer, Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat.

I was especially proud of my pie. Doesn't it look yummy? It was a big hit and will remain in my repertoire.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Football Saturday

Michigan is playing its archenemy Michigan State today (our next big rival after OSU). We're having a few friends over to watch the game.

I'm up early so I can make some snacks for the game, plus I have to register for winter semester classes online.

Today's snacks:
Subs
Homemade baked beans
Cole slaw
Chips & dip
Chili cheese dip & nachos
Leftover Halloween candy

Next classes:
Baking
Pastries I
Breakfast & Pantry

(Go Blue!)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Class Menu - Week Four


This week's assignments included:

Grilled flank steak with Asian marinade

Grilled salmon with

Barbecued ribs

Sushi

Yes, I said sushi. I wasn't really excited about this. I don't eat sushi. I don't plan on eating sushi. (I did try it once on an early date with G. I wanted to show that I was adventurous and a good sport. Once we were an item, no more such sacrifices were made.)

Surprisingly, I enjoyed learning about sushi. I felt like an artist with a palate of pickled veg, wasabi, and roe. And look at my finished product!

I brought home the sushi for G's dinner. I think he loves me just a little bit more now.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Jack O Lanterns












Yes, the stores are already stocked for Christmas(!!), but I'm still in the Halloween spirit.

Besides making some homemade snacks (snickerdoodles and malted milk bars), I continue the tradition of carving pumpkins each year. I've had pumpkin carving parties a few times and they're a big hit. Of course, to make it a grownup activity, I include some adult beverages. Hot buttered rum, spiked cider...this year G & I just opted for some good ol' fashioned bottles of beer.

Here are our creations.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Where Am I?


Yes, I inadvertently took a few days off. I will resume my posts tomorrow after I eat all of my Halloween candy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Slow Cooker

When I walked into the house tonight, I was greeted by the aroma of my dinner. No, G didn't cook tonight. Beef Stew simmered in the slow cooker all day.

I love my slow cooker. What a brilliant invention. I can be in class or at the library or at the car wash and guess what? I'm making my dinner at the same time.

This morning I seasoned some stew meat and browned it in a skillet. (I deglazed the pan with some port. Pretty much a household rule now.) Then, along with the beef, I added stock, tomato paste, spices and herbs, potatoes, carrots, onions, and peas. I gave it a quick stir and turned the slow cooker to low.

So after a hard day in the kitchen over a hot stove, I don't have to come home and stand in the kitchen over a hot stove.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Michael Clayton


We chose Clooney's latest effort for Tuesday night movie night and we were not disappointed.

Screenwriter Tony Gilroy makes his directorial debut with Michael Clayton. Who would've thought that a man who started his career with The Cutting Edge, a 1992 ice skating movie, would ultimately pen the Bourne trilogy and adult fare like Michael Clayton? Gilroy acquits himself well. The opening scenes grabbed me immediately--shots of the interior of law offices with narration from a character we don't even meet for another twenty minutes.

George Clooney heads a stellar cast as the title character, a seen-it-all former attorney who now acts as a fixer at a prestigious law firm. HIs latest problem involves lassoing in one of the firm's most successful lawyers, Arthur Edens, played by Tom Wilkinson (mark my words, a future Oscar nominee). Edens, a manic depressive, suddenly has a crisis of conscience while defending U/North, a chemical company accused of producing cancer-causing agents. The firm believes that Edens has stopped taking his medication and wants him committed, quickly and quietly. Michael Clayton's boss (the superb Sydney Pollack) sends him to keep a lid on the situation, but things become complicated. Actress/chameleon Tilda Swinton plays U/North's lead counsel who finds herself making some uncomfortable decisions. She doesn't trust Michael Clayton's ability to fix the problem so she takes matter into her own hands.

The storytelling is superb, the acting is top notch. Michael Clayton is a must-see.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Class Menu - Week Three

This week's menu:

Chicken and Shrimp Gumbo

Vegetable Cannelloni

Sea Scallops en Papillote

Shallow Poached Fillet

Pan Seared Salmon

Beurre Blanc

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

$5 Movie Night

I just discovered that the movie theater right around the corner is offering $5 movie nights every Tuesday. Has Christmas come early this year?

Which one should I see?

The Assassination of Jesse James
Gone Baby Gone
Rendition
Michael Clayton

Friday, October 19, 2007

Favorite Duets from my iPod

Seems like all of my fave duets are a little bit country-fied.

Funny How Time Slips Away - Al Green & Lyle Lovett
From a CD called Rhythm, Country & Blues released in 1994. Trisha Yearwood & Aaron Neville won the Grammy for I Fall to Pieces, but this gem from Green/Lovett has always been my preferred track. Very cool.

Waiting - Deana Carter & Dwight Yoakam
Deana & Dwight share vocals on a song that they co-wrote for Carter's I'm Just a Girl CD. Sort of a country rock ballad. I never would have put these two voices together, Dwight is loud and twangy, Deana is soft and breathy, but this song suits them.

It's Such a Small World - Rodney Crowell & Rosanne Cash
A duet from the formerly married duo off of Crowell's Grammy-winning Diamonds & Dirt (1988). Bittersweet and melodic. (I love these two artists. They're still out there making terrific music.)

My Kind of Woman, My Kind of Man - Vince Gill & Patty Loveless
Written by Gill and on his CD, The Key (one of his best). These two were born to sing together. They've always sung on each other records, but this is their only true duet. Pure and classic country. In a good way.

Jackson - Mandy Barnett & Chuck Mead
A track from Dressed In Black, a tribute to Johnny Cash. I'm a fan of Mead (lead singer for BR5-49), but Barnett is the star here. Not only does she have a beautiful voice, she truly catches the spirit of June Carter Cash and the song itself. Playful and spiteful and a worthy tribute.

Crying, Waiting, Hoping - Marty Stuart & Steve Earle
Another track from a compilation CD, this time honoring Buddy Holly (Not Fade Away-1996). I absolutely love this rockin' version. The raw guitar solo is a great start and a great intro for the impending raucousness.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Deborah Kerr


Classic film actress Deborah Kerr died Tuesday in England. She was 86.

Kerr was nominated for an Oscar six times but never won. In 1994, the Academy presented her with a well-deserved honorary award. Possibly best known for her role in An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant (thanks to the plot of Sleepless in Seattle), Kerr's iconic moment in film was her racy beach scene with Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity.

To honor Kerr, TCM is showing Eternity and Separate Tables Sunday night (10/21) starting at 8pm. Other Kerr films to catch:

Black Narcissus
The King and I
The End of the Affair
The Night of the Iguana
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Herbs











I was so proud of my homegrown herbs this year. Whenever I cooked, all I had to do was walk out the back door to find Italian parsley, chives, rosemary, thyme, sage, basil...

Probably because I know that herb season is at its end, I've gone herb crazy. Fresh, chopped rosemary on my homemade focaccia bread. Chives added to scrambled eggs. Earthy sage in my stuffing experiments. Herb infused butters. Batches of pesto to keep me going throughout the winter. Roasted chickens with sprigs of thyme inside and out. Chopped parsley as a garnish on every dish that heads to the dinner table.

I asked a couple of my wise cohorts about preserving my herbs. Now that I have this bounty, I don't want to squander it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fifth Inning

The Indians just scored seven runs in the fifth inning. Oh, the Red Sox? ZERO.

I'm clapping, I'm cheering. It's so strange to be a gleeful Cleveland sports fan.

(p.s.--The Sox did score three home runs, they still turned out to be losers. Ha!)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Class Menu - Week Two

This week's assignments:

Consomme
(A strong, clear, clarified stock that is often served as the first course of French meals.)

Roast Chicken with Gravy
(I was assigned chicken; other students are roasting pork loin and lamb.)

Risotto

Veal Scallopini
Spaetzle

Roasted Tomato Coulis
(This will be the base tomato sauce for our homemade pastas next week.)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Thanksgiving Tryouts


After I typed the title of this post, I had this vision of a line of turkeys waiting to audition for me. But they'd perform badly on purpose because they really don't want the job, right?

The true subject today is that G & I are hosting Thanksgiving this year. I started my menu planning this week and tried out a couple of recipes for taste tests. I also don't want to make things for the very first time on Thanksgiving day (recipe for disaster anyone?)

I've made up my mind that I'll brine the turkey. Brining adds an infusion of flavor and keeps the meat moist during roasting. I brined a turkey breast last year and was happy with the results.

Stuffing is the true test for me. Of the entire meal, the stuffing is something I've made the least. I really want to succeed here. I tried a sourdough bread version with sausage and pears. I liked the taste, but G didn't expect so much sausage flavor. Should I try a cornbread version? Looks like we'll be eating stuffing once a week 'til the end of November.

I made a creamed corn gratin this weekend as well. It was topped with bacon and fried red onion rings. I liked it and it definitely looks impressive, but I'm not convinced that this is any better than an old fashioned corn casserole. I'm planning on making two vegetable sides, green beans with caramelized shallots and...corn? Carrots? Hmmm...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bob Dylan Concert Review

I thought I'd recreate my concert experience in my review.

Opener Amos Lee was impressive. His songs were memorable and his backup band was great. Elvis Costello performed solo. He came out on stage in an all black suit, trademark glasses, and silver sequined rock star shoes. He rocked out, hit the high notes and amused with his between-song-banter.

Bob Dylan djeirjcaj adskr; qoewiusldk af jdenew. sfajksf fjer adrjel fkjsot josad lwq'lc c kasdoep kncncoweirn wjhcl keio z,cn ksjfu. wekdjf kj joaiesrl jnckel l,am kdfl Everybody Must Get Stoned. safew adjewp fkjdsli jfrnnt. wje,rlsiw kh ljho jdsfoamc,e e ekgj fjl;b jn,cwptut gjl. thcpem ajt jeoulgm,sfn ewhtljllkdie dmclle. ikk dkrkjeppwq, lc.bnibbblan, kdjdjktd. telkw.cndkslp sjtj kth sktosj jdkl.

jlaf fjslauwoeir, oafk hrwqpcbna dhgk thewosc,. algjljkda,nc with the Memphis blues again. thweroizvc,d aghmc,na drqo jfadsjf hthtw thekzopc dnckmle afjwe jakuriwaad fjdlkt jssk kuyowrmc,n klarj.b.oppppp.

(My apologies to diehard Dylan fans. I just couldn't resist.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Radio Everywhere

Our local radio station, 107.1, is broadcasting live from various coffee shop locations around town every Friday. I haven't been able to make it to a remote until today.

I don't have many kind words for radio these days. In the car, I'm listening to CDs. At home, it's homemade playlists via the iPod. But 107.1 is an exception. The station plays a multitude of artists (not just the same fifteen or twenty over and over again). The morning DJ, Martin Bandyke, is a cool guy and after today, he's my new best friend.

I poured myself a cup of coffee (autumn spice blend for $1.07, of course), found a seat, and watched the sun come up. I could hardly hear the radio broadcast because the place was buzzing with customers. Lots of people hurrying in and out, lots of singles working on laptops, and a really cute group of five older women, in jogging suits, drinking beverages topped with whipped cream in tall glasses.

On a commercial break, I sauntered up to say good morning to Martin. I thought I'd walk away with a mug or a bumper sticker. Bob Dylan's in town tonight for a concert and Martin's a big fan so I brought that up in the conversation. Next thing I knew, Martin asked me if I knew the name of the new film about Dylan (in which he's portrayed by six different actors). Um, Martin, I believe the answer is, I'm Not There.

All of a sudden, I'm holding two tickets to the concert. Tonight. Bob Dylan with special guests Elvis Costello and Amos Lee.

Whoa.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Zing Bar

I've neglected writing at length about Zingerman's, the 25-year old deli here in Ann Arbor. It's a foodie paradise and worthy of many posts.

Last night I found a gift from G when I arrived home from class--a new Zing candy bar. There's a guy named Charlie Frank who has started making candy bars at Zingerman's. His previous creations were the Zzang! Original (honey nougat, caramel, peanuts) and the Cashew Cow (roasted cashews, cashew brittle, puffed rice, milk chocolate). The new bar, What the Fudge!, is made of malted milk cream fondant, milk chocolate fudge, and muscavedo brown sugar caramel. All of the candy bars are hand dipped in Ecuadorian dark chocolate.

Two words: stocking stuffer.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Intro to Food Tech

New class, new chef. We actually get to cook in this class. Hallelujah.

Each week we'll have a menu assigned to us. This week the menu includes braised short ribs, roasted pumpkin soup, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, vegetable medley, and turkey fricassee. Each student has his/her own station in the kitchen though and works independently.

The biggest challenge so far is gathering the ingredients. As new students, we don't really know where to find anything. "Have you seen the onions?" "Where can I find a lemon?" "Bay leaves? Anyone?"

Being prepared to cook is a Big Thing. Or in chef speak: "Mise en place!" Yesterday we chopped onions, carrots, and celery, roasted the pumpkin, and measured out wine, stock, and butter. Today we'll cook soup, ribs, and veggies and prep for tomorrow's menu items.

My new techniques are definitely spilling over into home life. After a dinner of leftovers last night, I prepped food for tonight's dinner--roasted chicken with fennel and apple hash.

Instead of feeling exhausted after class, I felt exhilarated. No more butchery. I saw the new butchery students across the hall yesterday. I took a second and felt sorry for those poor souls. And then I skipped back to my station with a big smile on my face to roast my pumpkin.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Grilled Steak Sandwiches


I found this great recipe for grilled flank steak sandwiches. Sunday night, I brushed the steak with Dijon mustard and marinated it in red wine. Once grilled, I thinly sliced the steak and topped it with fontina cheese, lettuce, and homemade garlic thyme aioli.

My proudest achievement though was the bread. I'm a firm believer that the key to a great sandwich is the bread and our dinner proved it. The grilled steak sandwiches called for rosemary focaccia. I felt ambitious, I had envelopes of yeast in the cupboard, so I made the focaccia myself. It was a thing of beauty.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Zodiac



I have been waiting to see this film all year. I finally picked up the DVD from the library, but the baseball playoffs have distracted me from my movie watching.

I woke up at 3:30 this morning and couldn't fall back to sleep so I grabbed my pillow, headed for the couch, and started watching Zodiac. One hundred fifty-seven minutes later, I was still glued to the TV. What a story. What a script. What a cast.

David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, Panic Room) has made a masterpiece. Mark Ruffalo plays Dave Toschi, the San Francisco police detective in charge of the investigation into the late 1960s/early 1970s murders by the Zodiac killer. Robert Downey Jr. is the San Francisco Chronicle reporter who tracked the case and Jake Gyllenhaal is the cartoonist (!) for the Chronicle who eventually became immersed in his own amateur investigation.

The Zodiac killer emerged in the late sixties in Northern California. He sent letters to the press and included cryptograms, most of which have never been solved. The Zodiac killer was never apprehended.

Fincher's film essentially focuses on obsession. The killer is obsessed with murdering his victims, toying with the police and finding some sort of perverse fame. The men who investigate the Zodiac killer are equally obsessed with learning the killer's identity and discovering his motives.

Frightening and fascinating, Zodiac is one of the best films of the year.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Go Tribe!

Can't post today...biting my nails as I watch the Indians vs. the Yankees.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Cider and Doughnuts and Dessert


I met my mom this morning for our annual cider mill stop. Indian summer is here so Mom & I met right when the mill opened. Who wants hot cider when it's eighty-five degrees outside?

We sat at a picnic table and enjoyed the cider, cinnamon doughnuts, and lots of catching up. We left with the usual bounty--apples, pumpkins for the front porch and a caramel apple walnut pie for Mom and pseudo Pop.

After some shopping, we answered our appetites by stopping by a small cafe named after the The French Laundry in CA. Brilliant Idea #1: order one large sandwich for the two of us to share. (#28-turkey, lettuce, tomato, cheese, pesto on French farm bread) Brilliant Idea #2: Share a dessert. Hmmm...no chocolate for Mom, no cheesecake for me...double crust raspberry pie with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream was the answer. It was photo-worthy.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Foreign Films

I think I saw my first foreign films in high school French class. We screened Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast (1946) as well as Claude Berri's Jean de Florette and its sequel, Manon of the Spring (1986). Those films mesmerized me.

As an adult, I've tried to keep up with the acclaimed foreign films that I've heard about from Siskel, Ebert, and Roeper. I've discovered Amelie, Hero, Run Lola Run, Monsoon Wedding, the early films of Ang Lee and the sublimely colorful world of Pedro Almodovar.

Today I watched The Lives of Others, the 2006 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. The film takes place in 1984 East Berlin and follows the lives of a playwright, his actress girlfriend, and the Stasi agent (secret policeman) assigned to monitor their lives and work. It's a quiet thriller and heartbreaking character piece; I highly recommend it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Butchery Class Final(ly Over)


Today is my final butchery class. I'm a bit teary-eyed. No more soaking my chef jacket each night to get rid of the, um, stains. No more panic attacks while trimming a $30/pound beef tenderloin. No more fish guts.

I really did learn a lot and have more skills in the kitchen than ever before. But boy, oh boy, the things I've seen.

My most memorable moments:

Chef turned to me one day and said, "There's some mackerel in the sink over there. It needs to be gutted and filleted." I walked slowly to the sink, approaching it unexcitedly, and sure enough, there were mackerel in there. Four whole mackerel that were probably enjoying a leisurely swim the day before.

I became known as the Saw Lady in class. After a demo of butchering a leg of lamb, Chef said, "OK, who's next? You?" He handed me the hacksaw (yes, I said hacksaw) and told me to go for it. I'm pretty sure that was the first time I'd ever held a saw in my hand. I did so well, I got applause. The next day, Chef came over to my station and told me that he had nightmares of me and my saw.

After taking attendance one afternoon, Chef told me and another girl to go to the cooler and get the cart with the pig on it. I remained where I was and chuckled. Chef said, "No, I'm serious." We walked down to the cooler and sure enough, there was a five-tier cart with four sides of pig. I'm talking someone took two pigs and cut them straight down the middle. Averting our eyes, my fellow student and I pushed the cart down the hall. Only when we'd placed the cart in the classroom and returned to our stations did I realize that the pigs' heads were STILL ON THE CART!

And then, Chef said, "Saw Lady, you're up."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

National Dessert Month

October is, yes, National Dessert Month. Doesn't that make you happy even though you could've had dessert every day in September?

I confess that I am not a dessert monger. I never save room for dessert. I'm always so eager for my entree that I gobble it up and then realize, oh yeah, there's probably a dessert menu.

Another reason that dessert and I have not developed a satisfying relationship is that I usually head for the salty snacks if I crave a little something. Put some kind of dip (onion, vegetable, dill, cheese...it really doesn't matter what) in front of me and I will find a way to eat it as fast as humanly possible. Popcorn? Pretzels? I'm there.

So in honor of Dessert Month, I think I will stretch myself and try to partake of some desserts.

Quick brainstorming: Apple pie...pound cake with lemon curd and raspberries...chocolate tart...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

UMMA


The University of Michigan Art Museum is closed for remodeling. In the meantime, the museum has rented some space near campus to host small exhibits. G & I are members so whenever the exhibits change, we get to attend an opening night cocktail party.

The space is intimate and there's live music, either a band or a DJ. The hors d'oeuvres are delicious (tonight we had fresh mozzarella with tapenade on French bread and a yummy Chinese chicken salad in a flaky pastry cone) and the wine is everflowing.

I feel like my hipness quotient skyrockets when I go to these events. I wear a cute outfit, hold my glass of chardonnay, my napkin carrying the crumbs of my last appetizer, and I talk about shadows and light and composition. I love it.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Banned Books Week Sept. 29-Oct. 6

According to the American Library Association, Banned Books Week emphasizes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one's opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.

Every year there are attempts to remove books from library shelves and schools. Per the ALA, 42 of 100 books recognized as the best novels of the 20th century have been challenged or banned.

Here's a brief list of recognizable titles that have been challenged:

The Great Gatsby
The Lord of the Flies
Catcher in the Rye
The Call of the Wild
In Cold Blood
The Jungle
The Handmaid's Tale
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Amical











I have to write about the brunch we had this morning before we left Traverse City. We stopped at Amical, a French bistro downtown.

G and I ordered omelets, but G had his eye on the French toast so we decided to split it. This has to be one of our all-time favorite breakfasts. We were blown away.

G's potato, bacon and cheddar omelet and my spinach and bacon omelet were served with slices of pineapple, cantaloupe, and watermelon and a slice of lemon poppyseed bread. The eggs were perfectly cooked, the potatoes were red-skinned and fried up with onions and spices.

The French toast was killer--griddled Challah bread with almond bavarian creme, fresh berries, raspberry romanoff cream & almonds. G said it was like eating the best jelly doughnut ever.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Traverse City


G & I decided to go away for the weekend. We drove about four hours north to Traverse City, set up camp (king bed, cable, wi-fi), and explored northern Michigan's wine country.

Last night we ate dinner at Hanna, a hip, little bistro. G ordered a bottle of sparkling wine. We started with a Camembert Fondue-warm French camembert cheese with a sauce of cream, crushed tomatoes and hard cider, with julienne apples and truffle oil. The fondue was heavenly. G decided that we need to include Camembert in our diet at home.

For our entrees, we both ordered specials--G had the beef tenderloin with mashed potatoes and a thyme jus, I had the pan seared scallops in a rich, cream sauce with tasso ham, rice and sauteed spinach. We were speechless. And very full.

Today we drove to both peninsulas, Old Mission and Leelanau, to admire fall scenery and taste wine. Our favorite wineries were L. Mawby (strictly sparkling) and Chateau Fontaine.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bon Voyage

We stopped to say goodbye to our friends Mark & Andrea today. They're moving to New Orleans this weekend and we are going to miss them terribly.

M&A are family to us. During 24 and Battlestar Galactica seasons, we would always expect Mark on our doorstep to watch the latest episode. If I was on my way to the grocery store and Mark called, I would ask, "How much more food do I need to buy? Are you coming over?"

After we said our goodbyes and G & I drove away, I cried like a baby.

Looks like it's time to plan a weekend in New Orleans.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Novel Dilemma

I just finished reading Jack London's The Call of the Wild and now I'm staring at a stack of books on my desk. What should I read next? I need some help deciding. Here are the nominees (descriptions from powells.com):

Special Topics in Calamity Physics - Marisha Pessl
Structured around a syllabus for a Great Works of Literature class and containing ironic visual aids (drawn by the author), Pessl's debut novel is complex yet compelling, erudite yet accessible. It combines the suspense of Hitchcock, the self-parody of Dave Eggers, and the storytelling gifts of Donna Tartt with a dazzling intelligence and wit entirely Pessl's own.

Digging to America - Anne Tyler
In what is perhaps her richest and most deeply searching novel, Anne Tyler gives us a story about what it is to be an American, and about Maryam Yazdan, who after thirty-five years in this country must finally come to terms with her "outsiderness."

Big If - Mark Costello
The Secret Service agents guarding the vice president steel their nerves to a multitude of dangers every day. When he runs for the top spot on the Democratic ticket, however, their personal lives may just be the biggest obstacle to keeping him safe.

Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endure the hypocrisies of society.

A Good Year - Peter Mayle
Max Skinner has recently lost his job at a London financial firm and just as recently learned that he has inherited his late uncle’ s vineyard in Provence. On arrival he finds the climate delicious, the food even better, and two of the locals ravishing. Unfortunately, the wine produced on his new property is swill. Why then are so many people interested in it? Enter a beguiling Californian who knows more about wine than Max does– and may have a better claim to the estate. Fizzy with intrigue, bursting with local color and savor, A Good Year is Mayle at his most entertaining.

Straight Up and Dirty: A Memoir - Stephanie Klein
elebrated bloggist, photographer, and freelance writer Stephanie Klein lets it all hang out in this juicy tell-all tracing her jump back into single life following her divorce.

Any suggestions?

Better Late Than Never?

This bumper sticker made me laugh out loud on my way to school today:

I voted for Bush...Twice
I Apologize

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Rufus Honors Judy


I just read that Rufus Wainwright finished his four-city tour in Los Angeles this week. Backed by a 40-piece orchestra, he recreated Judy Garland's legendary 1961 concerts (at Carnegie Hall, the London Palladium, the Hollywood Bowl). The songlists were the same, the staging. Wainwright even left the stage to kiss audience member Debbie Reynolds just as Garland kissed Rock Hudson once upon a time. Check out the identical concert posters.

I love this! I'm only bummed that I wasn't able to enjoy the fun. I checked Wainwright's website and sure enough...an announcement that a CD and DVD of his Judy Garland tributes is coming out in December. Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) leant his hand to the filming of the concert.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Best Burgers

A couple of years ago, GQ Magazine published a list of the twenty best burgers in America. I'm lucky enough to be near to two of the burger joints here in Michigan. Tonight we had an impromptu stop at Sidetracks and obviously, I ordered the burger deluxe--1/3 pound, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheddar cheese, cooked to medium. G and our friend Mark always join in, but they mix up the cheeses (American or pepper jack) and they always add bacon.

I haven't made it to the other Michigan location yet, but I have stopped at No. 9, the Parker Meridien in New York City. It's a great find, a tiny (affordable) burger joint behind a big purple curtain in the lobby of the hotel.

20. Hamburger Sandwich
Louis' Lunch
New Haven, CT

19. Our Famous Burger
Sidetrack Bar and Grill
Ypsilanti, MI

18. Hamburger
Poag Mahone's Carvery and Ale House
Chicago

17. Double Bacon Deluxe with Cheese
Red Mill Burgers
Seattle

16. Hamburger & Fries
Burger Joint
San Francisco

15. Build Your Own Burger
The Counter
Santa Monica

14. Hamburger
J. G. Melon
New York City

13. Cheeseburger
White Manna
Hackensack, NJ

12. Hamburger
Bobcat Bite
Santa Fe

11. Grilled Bistro Burger
Bistro Don Giovanni
Napa, CA

10. Number Five
Keller's Drive-in
Dallas

9. Cheeseburger
Burger Joint, le Parker Meridien Hotel
New York City

8. Hamburger
Miller's Bar
23700 Michigan Ave, Dearborn, 48124
Dearborn, MI

7. Buckhorn Burger
Buckhorn
San Antonio, NM

6. California Burger
Houston's
Santa Monica

5. Kobe Sliders
Barclay Prime
Philadelphia

4. Rouge Burger
Rouge
Philadelphia

3. Not Just a Burger
Spiced Pear Restaurant at the Chanler Hotel
Newport, RI

2. Luger Burger
Peter Luger Steak House
Brooklyn

1. Sirloin Burger
Le Tub
Hollywood, FL

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tribute


Last week, a portion of 53rd Street at 8th Avenue in New York City was renamed Jerry Orbach Way in honor of the star of stage and screen.

I first fell for Orbach's hangdog looks and smart-aleck delivery when he guest-starred as PI Harry McGraw on Murder, She Wrote. I had no idea until years later that he was a Broadway star, earning a Tony award for Promises, Promises in 1969. In the 90s, he appeared in one of my favorite Woody Allen films, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and he voiced the character of Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast. Then, of course, he found everlasting fame as Detective Lennie Briscoe on Law & Order.

I think Lennie was the best. In fact, I stopped watching Law & Order episodes altogether after Orbach passed away in 2004. I still tune into the reruns on cable though. I can't resist those Lennie one liners:

Suspect: "Should I say how I didn't mean to do it?"
Briscoe: "You mean how you only killed him because he wouldn't give you his watch? Yeah, put that in there, the D.A. would really like that."

Logan: "One of these days I'm going to pack up a Winnebago."
Briscoe: "And go where?"
Logan: "Upstate...New Hampshire."
Briscoe: "Right--I spent a year there one weekend."

Limo dispatcher, being questioned about one of his driver's clients: "This was a model? Good lookin'?"
Briscoe: "Right. Not one of those ugly models."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Go To

Okay, so I know by now it's obvious that I cook A LOT. Most of the time though, I'm always on the lookout for new recipes. All I do is experiment, so when we're hungry for dinner and I didn't plan our menu or I'm too tired to be creative, I get into trouble. We hardly have any "go to" meals; favorite/easy things to throw together that are tried and true.

I was idea-free tonight, so G said, "Hey, why don't I make some grilled cheese with our French bread and you make that tomato soup you made once." At first, I whined, "But I don't feel like chopping vegetables or waiting for the soup to be ready." But grilled cheese and tomato soup sounded good, so I opened up my recipe and realized that the tomato soup was super easy and only took about 15 minutes. Go G!

G made the grilled cheese (he makes them perfectly; sharp cheddar for him, provolone for me) and I threw together this tomato soup and voila! A delicious little go to supper was born. The soup is easy and much tastier than out of the can. It's a recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis:

Quick and Spicy Tomato Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce (I use Newman's Own sauces)
2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta; I use ditalini)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic and saute until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the jar of marinara sauce, chicken broth, cannellini beans, red pepper flakes, pasta, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Food Memories


Do you have food memories? Just recently I was at a grocery store and saw a box of Boo Berry cereal, which I had to buy. It was one of my favorites from childhood. I didn't know they still made Boo Berry (and Franken Berry). Count Chocula proved to be the one with staying power.

My mom gave me a bag of assorted jelly bellies this weekend. Jelly bellies always put a smile on my face. When I was little, my grandpa used to take me to the candy store and I'd get to choose whatever I wanted. Jelly bellies were big back then (I think President Reagan loved them) and I wasn't a big fan of chocolate, so I'd always wander over to the side of store where the clear plastic bins of jelly bellies were, every color and flavor imaginable. Root beer, coconut, buttered popcorn, cantaloupe, bubble gum. My favorites were cotton candy, green apple, lemon-lime, and watermelon (dark green on the outside and pink on the inside.)

There was a good period of time when I had to part from my jelly belly fix. Years of braces on my teeth did not bode well for anything like jelly beans. So it was fun to sit down today with my bag of jelly bellies and figure out the flavors. I did find some green apple ones and they're still my favorite.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Brunch with Mom












Mom & I decided to make a fancy brunch for ourselves. I drove up to her place and we stopped at a few grocery stores to pick up some ingredients. We don't get to see each other much when I have classes so we talked so much we barely came up for air.

There's a fancy schmancy market in her town that we always find an excuse to visit. As we looked at the chicken sausage with feta and spinach, at the homemade slabs of mac and cheese, Mom said, "Do we need anything here?" Me: "No, I just like being here. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside."

The market sells Zingerman's bread and pastries so I treated us to a couple of cookies and a palmier especially for Mom.

We finally sat down for our brunch around two o'clock. Mushroom and shallot quiche with Swiss cheese, lemon raspberry French toast strata, and sauteed apples and bacon.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

U-M Gladiator?


I just heard that Russell Crowe was in town last week to support the Wolverines. How did I miss that? I watched the game against Notre Dame. No mention of Crowe on the sidelines. Check this out from the Detroit Free Press:

Hollywood star Russell Crowe cheers friend Carr, U-M
September 16, 2007
By Mark Snyder
Free Press Sports Writer

When most football coaches are under fire, they turn to their family and staff. Lloyd Carr received a different kind of support.

Movie star Russell Crowe, whom Carr befriended after splicing "Cinderella Man" movie clips into last season's game preparation, flew in from Washington with a few friends to attend Saturday's game and watch from the U-M sideline.
"Just because of the way the season started, I could sense through what I was watching on TV that my friend was in pain," Crowe said when meeting with the media after Saturday's game. "I just thought I would take his mind off things and I started teasing him about it and he said 'Get up here.' "

Crowe owns a rugby team in Australia called the South Sydney Rabbitohs and had Carr come down to Sydney to give his coach and players a few lessons of leadership in May.

On Saturday, the movie star had a chance to return the favor, speaking to the Wolverines before the game.
"It was an incredible privilege to be part of being here today and the atmosphere," Crowe said. "I think that's the largest sporting event I've ever attended in terms of numbers in the crowd. I had a little chat with the boys to start with and the response was pretty good. I could hear a click. They were dead serious they were going to do something different this week than they did last week."

Carr brought Crowe, who was wearing a U-M hat, to his postgame news conference and shared the podium with him, smiling and laughing with every story Crowe told.

"He said, 'You need a rabbit,' " Carr said.

Crowe said rugby and football have similarities and, asked if he'd prefer Mike Hart or Shawn Crable, he went off the board. "I want Jake," he said of Jake Long, U-M's 6-foot-7, 313-pound offensive tackle.

Though Crowe insists he'll be back for another game, he wasn't sure how long he'd stay in Ann Arbor.

"I want to have a couple of beers with Lloyd," he said.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tonight We Dine in Hell!


This is how I feel in butchery class.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cookbooks

Once I became a foodie, I did what I do with every other interest of mine. I started buying books about it. When we moved into our house, we had room in a kitchen corner to place a four-shelf bookcase, just for cookbooks.

As a culinary student, now books like Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen and David Kamp's The United States of Arugula sit beside the Barefoot Contessa and Betty Crocker. I'm discovering some great books recommended by the school's chefs. This summer, I checked out Madeleine Kamman's The Making of a Cook and Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything from the library and have subsequently added them to my collection.

I know that the Joy of Cooking is a popular book, but I've never had the chance to peruse it. I picked up the seventy-fifth anniversary edition at the library yesterday and have already created a spreadsheet listing the recipes I need to try.

I think I might need a bigger bookcase. Or better yet, a bigger kitchen?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Congratulations 30 Rock!


30 Rock was named Best Comedy at the Emmy Awards last night and I couldn't be happier. When accepting the award, creator/writer/star Tina Fey joked about the show's low ratings by thanking its "dozens and dozens of viewers." I tell everyone I know about this show. Season two premieres Thursday, October 4th at 8:30pm on NBC.

Some of my favorite dialogue from season one:

Liz Lemon: Why are you wearing a tux?
Jack: It's after 6. What am I, a farmer?

Jenna: That guy wanted to buy you a drink!
Liz: Really? But I already have a drink. Do you think he'd buy me mozzarella sticks?

Tracy: The Black Crusaders are a secret group of powerful Black Americans. Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey are the chief majors, but Jesse Jackson, Colin Powell and Gordon from Sesame Street, they're members, too, and they meet four times a year in the skull of the Statue of Liberty. You can read about that on the Interweb.
Liz: Ah, well, it must be true if it's on the "Interweb."

Tracy: I'm gonna make you a mix tape. You like Phil Collins?
Jack: I've got two ears and a heart, don't I?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Emmy Night

I've been an awards show junkie since I was a kid. So tonight I will be glued to the TV watching the Emmy awards. Some nominees:

Outstanding Comedy
30 Rock
Entourage
The Office
Two and a Half Men
Ugly Betty

My pick: My personal favorite is The Office, but I'll cheer for any one of these except Two and a Half Men.

Outstanding Drama
Boston Legal
Grey's Anatomy
Heroes
House
The Sopranos

My pick: I don't watch any of these shows. The Sopranos will probably win since it was the final season.

My picks for the acting awards:

Leads in a Comedy
Alec Baldwin for 30 Rock
America Ferrara for Ugly Betty

Supporting/Comedy
Rainn Wilson for The Office
Jaime Pressly for My Name is Earl

Leads in a Drama
Hugh Laurie for House
Minnie Driver for The Riches

Supporting/Drama
Terry O'Quinn for Lost
Rachel Griffiths for Brothers & Sisters

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I'm Fall-ing











briskmornings apples footballgames
cidermills newcorduroys pumpkins
cinnamon sweaters harvests hayrides
bonfires cobblers crunchyfallenleaves
cornhusks crimsonsandorangesandgolds
schoolsupplies acorns newtvshows mums
chestnuts apples cornmazes squash
Oscarworthymovies hottoddies marchingbands
turkeysintheoven fireplaces shorterdays
soupsandstews cloves moreapples homecomings

Friday, September 14, 2007

Jane Wyman

Jane Wyman passed away earlier this week at age 93. For many, she was known as Ronald Reagan's first wife or just the matriarch on 80s soap, Falcon Crest. When I was a kid, I knew her as the meanie from Disney's Pollyanna. But once upon a time, she was a classic movie star.

Turner Classic Movies showed a marathon of Wyman's films today, including The Lost Weekend and Johnny Belinda (for which she won a Best Actress Oscar). My all-time favorites are the films she made with Rock Hudson in the mid-1950s, All That Heaven Allows and Magnificent Obsession. Directed by Douglas Sirk, both films are lush and beautifully melodramatic.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Kim Richey Concert


Singer/songwriter Kim Richey is on tour promoting her latest CD, Chinese Boxes. We caught her show last night at The Ark in Ann Arbor.

Chinese Boxes is Richey's fifth CD and her first release in five years. I first became a fan in 1995 and have followed her career ever since. Her record producers have included Richard Bennett, Angelo, Hugh Padgham, Bill Bottrell, and Giles Martin. Richey's work was initally considered alt-country, but nowadays the music lands firmly in the pop/rock category. No matter what she sings or writes, her crystalline voice delivers.

She and her four-man band were fantastic live. They performed all ten songs from the new CD and included a great sampling of older songs. A couple of the songs were arranged in an intimate jazzy/combo style which was a big hit with the crowd. The only cover was the closing tune, a beautiful version of What a Wonderful World.

Concert playlist:
Those Words We Said
Girl in a Car
Jack and Jill
Chinese Boxes
Come Around
The Absence of Your Company
Drift
Turn Me
Not a Love Like This
Something to Say
I Will Follow
Circus Song (Can't Let Go)
Reel Me In
I'm Alright
I Know
Every River
Another Day
A Place Called Home
Pretty Picture
What a Wonderful World

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New CD: Gretchen Peters


I've been enjoying Burnt Toast and Offerings, the new CD by Gretchen Peters. She's an award-winning songwriter whose had hit songs recorded by Martina McBride (Independence Day) , Trisha Yearwood (On a Bus to St. Cloud), and Faith Hill (The Secret of Life). As a whole, her solo work isn't country though. Her eponymous second release is definitely more pop/rock and remains my most played Peters disc.

Burnt Toast and Offerings is her fourth U.S. release. This track is a new favorite of mine (special shoutout to my mom who is the queen of figuring out lyrics.):

Sunday Morning (Up and Down My Street)

There's a dog a-barking
There's no Sunday parking
No stabbing on the news

And the air is breezy
And the day breaks easy
And the traffic hums a tune

There's a Sunday paper
And a sleepy neighbor
And a cat curled at your feet
There's a breakfast frying
And a baby crying
And your smile is all I need

And we're talking
And we're laughing
And we're taking time and making love so sweet
And the birds sing
And the bells ring
And it's Sunday morning up and down my street

Where the sidewalk's broken
There's a cafe open
People spilling out the door

And you're softly humming
And the day is coming
When we won't be sad no more

And we're talking
And we're laughing
And we're taking time and making love so sweet
And the birds sing
And the bells ring
And it's Sunday morning up and down my street

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Monday, September 10, 2007

Butchery Class


The chef gave us a brief lecture today at the start of class. Different cuts of beef, USDA/grading information, marbling, etc. Then it was time to get the gloves on.

Some students worked on shrimp, some worked on scallops, some worked on tuna. I cut up three chickens today. Chicken number one: bone-in, skinless thighs, boneless, skinless breasts. I still left some meat on the bones when carving. There's this small piece of meat at the backbone (the chefs call it the oyster). Ideally, when I carve the legs and thighs from the carcass, that small "oyster" meat needs to be carved off as well.

Chicken number two: Frenched wings, breast with skin remaining on the cage, boneless, skinless, thighs. Again, I missed the oyster.

Chicken number three: Aha! I left the oyster intact. I grabbed the chicken's leg and walked over to the chef's desk.

"Chef? What do you think?"

He looked, smiled, and responded, "You're going to make me cry."

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Horror Story

I just finished reading Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale for the first time. Last month I read The Ruins, considered to be "the best horror story of the twenty-first century" by none other than Stephen King. The Ruins was a great read and very scary, but The Handmaid's Tale was profoundly more frightening.

A plot synopsis from sparknotes.com:
In The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood explores the consequences of a reversal of women’s rights. In the novel’s nightmare world of Gilead, a group of conservative religious extremists has taken power and turned the sexual revolution on its head. Feminists argued for liberation from traditional gender roles, but Gilead is a society founded on a “return to traditional values” and gender roles, and on the subjugation of women by men. What feminists considered the great triumphs of the 1970s—namely, widespread access to contraception, the legalization of abortion, and the increasing political influence of female voters—have all been undone. Women in Gilead are not only forbidden to vote, they are forbidden to read or write. Atwood’s novel also paints a picture of a world undone by pollution and infertility, reflecting 1980s fears about declining birthrates, the dangers of nuclear power, and environmental degradation.

This novel will haunt me for a long time.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Top Ten Movie Songs (21st Century)

In no particular order, here's a list of my favorite cuts from soundtracks so far this century:

Just Like Honey/Jesus & Mary Chain
Lost in Translation
A beautiful love song for an unrequited love affair.

Let Go/Frou Frou
Garden State
Zach Braff sure knows how to compile a soundtrack (hear also: The Last Kiss)

America (**** Yeah)
Team America: World Police
Oh so bad. Oh so hilarious.

Long Ride Home/Patty Griffin
Elizabethtown
Classic Patty Griffin--pure and haunting.

The Blower's Daughter/Damien Rice
Closer
Stark and poignant and full of longing...just like the film.

A Kiss At the End of the Rainbow/Mitch & Mickey (Eugene Levy & Catherine O'Hara)
A Mighty Wind
A great folk song that's the centerpiece of the film.

Once Soundtrack/Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
All of the songs were written and performed by the two leads. This is why indie movies rule.

Oompa Loompa Songs/Danny Elfman
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Goofy and the most memorable parts of the film.

And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going/Jennifer Hudson
Dreamgirls
A star-making turn that gave me goose bumps in the movie theater.

Across the Universe/Rufus Wainwright
I Am Sam
I've heard several covers of this song since, but Rufus still rules.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Butchery


My first rotation fall semester is Butchery. Now I knew that this probably wouldn't be my favorite cooking class. I did have a brief stint of vegetarianism in my twenties after all. Between the intensity of the class (nonstop, on-your-feet for three and a half hours) and the degree of difficulty, I am already longing for my next rotation. I am not what you would call a gifted butchery student. The whole time I tried to trim a rack of lamb I muttered obscenities under my breath. I'm pretty sure that I was the last student to complete the task.

One of my classmates mentioned to me, "I've talked to three second-year students and they all said that butchery was their favorite class."

My response: "Why?"

Everything that we produce in class is used by other classes as well as the restaurant at school. All of the chefs place their "orders" with my chef instructor. Essentially the students are free labor.

In just three classes we:

stuffed and trussed chickens
broke down chickens into boneless breasts and skinless, boneless thighs
chopped turkey into stew meat
skinned redfish fillets
filleted salmon
deveined shrimp
trimmed turkey and brisket of fat
trimmed a lamb rack and cut it into chops

I now have a constant reverence for butchers everywhere.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Michigan Salad

It's been a challenging week. My butchery class is...well, I'll write about that tomorrow.

G took me into town for a relaxing dinner. I had a Michigan salad. I had never heard of these salads until, yes, I moved to Michigan. What a delicious discovery.

Michigan Salad

Mixed greens
Toasted pecans
Crumbled blue cheese
Dried cherries

Served with a raspberry vinaigrette. Occasionally I'll see walnuts used instead of pecans and gorgonzola substituted for the blue cheese. Also, I top the salad with a grilled chicken breast for a heartier dish.

Here's a recipe for the vinaigrette from allrecipes.com:

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup raspberry wine vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine the oil, vinegar, sugar, mustard, oregano, and pepper. Shake well.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Hot Dog Bar


For our first tailgate-at-home, we served some stadium snacks: nachos, peanuts, popcorn. The big hit of the day was the hot dog bar.

G grilled up some dawgs and I provided the condiment bar. Homemade chili, spicy jalapeno cheese sauce, chopped onion, sauerkraut, along with the typical mustard and relish.

This was our friend Mark's creation.

Our team's loss was demoralizing, but the hot dog bar seemed to make everyone happy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

When the Cat's Away


G's on a business trip so I spent the last day of my summer vacation solo, doing precisely what I wanted.

I slept in. I watched the Golden Girls while I enjoyed an English muffin. The Golden Girls just kill me. They're like a precursor to Sex and the City, a senior version of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte. With pure 80s ridiculousness.

I read a little. I started Thunderstruck by Erik Larson last week. I've had some trouble concentrating on it (I've certainly not been swept away) so I alternated between reading the book and watching a marathon of HGTV's Design Star. I guess shades of green are "in" right now. They painted a lot of green walls.

After an afternoon of sitting on the couch, I decided that I wasn't in the mood to cook dinner. What was I in the mood for? Chocolate chip cookies and milk.

Perfection.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Weekend Off

Prior to classes starting next week, I'm taking the weekend off!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Summer Play Day

My mom and I spent the day together and although it wasn't billed as a final summer fling, that's what it turned out to be. The temperature in the 70s, the day started out superbly. I had a free drink owed me at my local coffee shop. I picked up my mocha, turned up the music in my car and drove, orange barrel free all the way to Mom's house.

We went to the Flint Institute of Arts. Yes, there is an art museum in Flint. The museum is gorgeous and well-run; they even have a small theater and play art films.

Afterwards, we found a farmers' market and filled the trunk with bags of radishes, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes. We stopped at a colossal market in Mom's town and yes, filled up the car with more bags of food.

We went back to Mom's and ate dinner outside on her deck. By the time I drove home, the sun was setting.

So long, summer...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More Julia

I finished reading Julia Child's My Life in France which chronicles her years in Paris and Marseille. The arduous process of writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking started in France, but continued throughout Child's time in Europe, Washington, D.C., and finally Cambridge, MA.

Published in 1961, the impact of Mastering cannot be overstated. Child and her co-authors introduced classic French cuisine to casual American cooks. They researched recipes and tested them sometimes an inordinate number of times to ensure that the recipes were foolproof. Child was asked by her co-authors to help with their idea of French cookbook for an American audience. Shortly, Child was the leader of the project. She and her husband took photos from the chef's point of view for the book's sketches, something that had not been done before. She tracked down certain sauce recipes that no one had formally recorded. When her editor said that authentic French bread should be included in the cookbook, Child apprenticed with a bakery in France and made hundreds of loaves until she perfected the process and translated it for an American audience. So many different factors had to be addressed: the flour was different in the States, weather plays a part in the rising of the dough. Also, some ingredients in the original French recipes weren't readily available in the U.S. so Child had to find reasonable substitutions or change the recipe.

James Beard, considered the "dean of American cooking" told Julia how much he admired her efforts. "I only wish I'd thought of it first." The restaurant industry celebrates the James Beard Foundation Awards annually, sort of like the Oscars for food.

Child's passion for her topic comes through on every page, even as she complains about the mind numbing repetition of testing recipes or her impatience with her co-authors.

Next up on my reading list is Child's biography by Noel Riley Fitch, appropriately entitled Appetite for Life.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Orientation

My cooking classes are about to begin again. Today was our orientation at school and even though it was a bit sleep-inducing, I'm glad that I was there. All of the full-time chefs introduced themselves and had a few words of wisdom. Work hard, have fun, be true to yourself, take advantage of as many opportunities as possible.

The semesters are broken up into three five-week rotations. My first rotation is butchery. I can't wait to be able to break down a chicken in ten seconds flat.

On my way home from school, I stopped at a drive-thru for an Icee. As the drive-thru guy handed me my treat, he said, "Here you go, Beautiful." Whoa! I'll have to remind myself to stop there again for routine confidence building.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Pizza


I bought some ready made pizza dough last week so tonight's dinner was homemade pizza and a side of salad. I need to practice my rolling skills; I can't seem to make a round. My homemade pizzas are either rectangular or oval. But as long as it tastes good, who cares what shape it is, right?

Spicy tomato sauce, pepperoni, shredded mozzarella cheese, baked on a pizza stone. Once out of the oven, I garnished the pizza with fresh basil. A delicious little dinner to start the week.

Have I expressed how much I love pizza? I'll need to write an ode to it in a future blog. G and I want to try an experiment this fall. We're going to try a pie from every pizza place in town. Although after tonight's success, maybe we just need to practice making our own pizzas. For my last birthday, my mom gave me a little box of pizza recipe cards. Sausage and pepper pizza. Roasted corn pizza wit sundried tomatoes. Butternut squash and sage pizza. Barbecue chicken pizza. Pizza Margherita.

Pizza makes me so happy.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Countdown to Football

Five years ago I was new to Michigan and had never watched a college football game in my life. Growing up, I watched NFL football with my dad every Sunday (you really have to be of strong character to be a Cleveland Browns fan). I had no clue about the world of collegiate sports.

My first fall in Ann Arbor was quite the eyeopener. I will never forget the spectacle of being downtown during a home game against Penn State. Streets filled with people. Ann Arborites standing in their driveways advertising parking for $5, $10, $15. Maize and blue everywhere. I'd never seen anything like it.

The following fall, G and I were a couple. Since he was an MBA student at the U of M, he had season tickets so I not only attended a few games (in a stadium that holds 115,000, the largest in the U.S.), but I also experienced tailgating for the first time. We had a blast. One game started at 11am on a Saturday, so we were up and tailgating at 7 o'clock in the morning. We grilled bacon and sausages, scrambled some eggs on the griddle, ate donuts, and poured Bloody Marys.

Each year, I've become a bigger fan. Last year, we watched each Michigan game, but we also followed our rivals--Notre Dame, Michigan State, and the villainous OSU. The 2007 season starts in less than a week and I can't wait to be glued to my TV set for the next twelve Saturdays. In Ann Arbor (and Columbus and State College...), Saturdays become the Sabbath. We pray, we worship, and we rejoice.

GO BLUE!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Happy Place

When my friends have to do something unpleasant or uninteresting or just plain un-fun, I always tell them to go to a happy place. "Close your eyes, plug your ears, and murmur, happy place, happy place!" This usually gets a snicker, but it does tend to work. In random order, here are my top ten "happy places". (Plus, I just love to make lists.)

Any memory that includes my grandpa.

Dining at Zingerman's Roadhouse

My wedding day (I know, super sappy)

Visiting the cider mill with my mom

Flipping channels and finding a Humphrey Bogart movie

Driving through wine country

Eating chocolate chip cookies that just came out of the oven

Stopping at a sidewalk cafe in Paris for a nightcap

Finding a new favorite book, one that just leaves me awestruck

Sunday mornings with G--homemade muffins and scrambles and cups of joe