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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Fun With Tamales   Leave a comment

tamales

Restaurant dining offers various experiences beyond not wanting, or not knowing what, to cook at a given time. We want more than sustenance, and I typically desire something better than what I can prepare myself. Then, I want to know how it’s done so I can fix the dish myself sometime. Cooking classes offer a variation of these themes. Each time I participate in such an activity I learn a lot and make some new friends. This is just what happened with Barbara Santos-McAllister’s recent Tamales Class offered through her local business, Cocina Corazon.

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Tamales are nothing new to me, but it’s been years since I last made them. I have a treasured hand-written recipe from my grandmother with her instructions, but they’re vague and come from having prepared them a lot. Some specifics are missing.

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With seven other women, in a kitchen belonging to Barbara’s friend, we met to make tamales with four different fillings: pork with green chile, chicken mole, poblano with cheese, and dulce (sweet). Barbara did a massive amount of work before the class. Not only did she have all of the necessary ingredients at hand and prepare all of the fillings in advance, she also had food for us to nosh throughout the class. Her salsa almost overshadowed everything. Almost.

We learned to make masa, spread it and the filling on the corn husks. Then waited while they steamed, which was the only downside. Even though it was fun, it was a very long evening!

Cocina Corazon
Four-and-a-half Plates

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Lost and Found   Leave a comment

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I lost my library card.

It’s one of my most important forms of identification. I’ve held in my hand far more often than my driver’s license or my passport.

I knew the card was easily replaceable, but I’ve had this particular card for 27 years. Before that I had the one issued to me when I was in high school, but I had to relinquish it when I changed my last name. I was attached to the card as much for the length of time it’s been in my possession as for the access it’s provided to feed my imagination and my intellect.

I’d removed the card from my wallet just before a trip out of the country; I knew I wouldn’t be checking out any books in a Mexico City library because I suspected it wouldn’t be accepted anyway. One of my first stops upon returning home was to my local branch. Fortunately, my license was accepted as alternative ID for the book I wanted. Yet, I worried. I couldn’t remember where I’d placed the card.

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I went through my wallet multiple times; I ransacked my purse – just in case. I searched drawers, underneath piles of papers and books. I ended up organizing the clutter around my computer.

I wondered if I’d left in it the car. I hadn’t. I rearranged more untidiness. I opened one more drawer.

The next best thing to finding something that’s been lost is that sometimes it results in a little bit of cleanup.

library card

Irish Jig of a Mystery   Leave a comment

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In the Woods by Tana French is a double mystery. The first occurred in the mid-1980s and the second takes place 20 years later. There are numerous common threads, not the least of which is Adam Robert Ryan, the main character.

Ryan is also the narrator. His tone is engaging, self-deprecating and intelligent. Known as Rob, he’s a detective in Dublin’s Murder Squad. He and his partner, Cassie Maddox, work to solve the murder of 12-year-old Katy Devlin, whose body is found in the same general area where three pre-teens went missing all those years ago. One was Ryan who went by his first name, Adam, and was found covered in blood with no recollection of what happened to him or his friends.

Are the disappearance and murder related? Will Ryan’s memory be jarred? Should he even be involved in the more recent investigation? These questions drive the well-paced novel; the characters make it an interesting and intense journey. French provides plenty of suspects and plot twists. The result is a richly nuanced suspenseful novel.

Only Maddox knows of Ryan’s past. The two are close friends; they’re like siblings in their banter and knowledge of each other. As partners on the case they complement each other in their skills, thought processes and a shared, ironic, disrespect of authority – at least when it comes to their superintendent.

Anyone looking for resolution to both mysteries may be disappointed. This doesn’t necessarily require a spoiler alert, but it should add to the intrigue.

In the Woods
Four-and-half Bookmarks
Viking, 2007
429 pages

Posted April 10, 2017 by bluepagespecial in Uncategorized

Tapas and More   2 comments

Tapas

Carrying an umbrella in case of rain is almost a sure sign that it won’t be needed. Upon arriving in Barcelona we worried that the final weekend of our European vacation would be wet and dreary. For the first hour, it was. So, I unpacked the umbrella and the rain in Spain stayed mainly away.

Although, I’m sure we would have enjoyed the sites and food no matter what, the blue skies were an exclamation mark. We marveled at Barcelona’s beauty while also taking the opportunity to sample Catalan cuisine such as tapas, paella and other dishes that expanded our waistlines.

Tapas aren’t only only found in Spain, but that is certainly where they’re an art form. Following a walking tour of the Gothic quarter we wandered into a small tapas bar. Our server spoke wonderful English, which she said she was happy to practice.

We ordered jamon (paper thin slice of cured ham big on salty flavor), tomato bread, a cheese plate and potato balls. There is nothing like Spanish ham (jamon) and as much as I loved it, the potato balls were my favorite. Golf ball-size rounds of mashed potatoes were quickly fried creating a crusty, non-greasy exterior encasing creamy potatoes. Each had dollops of aioli. I could have eaten several platefuls.

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My tapas-sized order of paella at another restaurant was uninspiring. The flavors were fine, but the abundance of shellfish made it difficult to eat. I suppose, in retrospect, that wasn’t a bad thing.

My favorite meal was grilled chicken and French fries topped with roasted pepitos. These mild, savory peppers were smoky. The crispy chicken skin, which I ordinarily would have discarded, provided contrast to the juicy meat.

We enjoyed pastries at breakfast and gelato for afternoon/evening snacks.

We did a lot of walking in Barcelona; we had to!

See Food Dining   Leave a comment

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I’ve seen enough Viking Cruise-sponsored Masterpiece Theatre episodes on PBS to have sailed around the world. At least it seems that way, so when the opportunity arose to actually book a Viking ocean cruise, my husband and I grabbed it.

Unlike the river cruises, Viking’s liners on the open seas, in this case the Mediterranean, are larger. With 888 passengers, plus more than 400 crew members, the new Viking Sky is a mini-city with a Norwegian flair.

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Like other cruise ships, dining is a major activity. With six dining areas, plus the option for room service, the Viking Sky doesn’t disappoint. A recent tour of one of the galleys helped put a few things into perspective. First, there are 13 kitchens with more than 100 chefs, chefs de cuisine and sous chefs, who work 10-hour shifts to ensure that everyone on board gets more than they need to eat.

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Everything is made fresh, from the breads and pastries to pasta. Chef de cuisine Wayan explained that formulas are used to determine how much of each food item is needed on a daily basis. This involves a heavy reliance on past experience and nationality of the guests, among other factors. For example, the kitchen goes through 3,200 eggs per day!

Much more was shared on the tour and each meal on our 8-day cruise has been exceptional from crispy calamri to grilled sea bass, from fork-tender Chateaubriand to a hamburger. The combination of well-prepared dishes and exceptional service has made each meal a special dining experience.

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Roman Pizza   Leave a comment

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Mani ai Pizzeria’s doors open at 6:30 p.m. We arrived just as a small line was forming. This is a no-frills pizza joint that serves great pies and entertains, at least we were entertained by the pizzamakers. There was neither tossing nor twirling of unbaked dough, but a calm, systematic approach to churning out 15 made-to-order pizzas at a time.

2017-02-23-19-57-11We shared a mixed salad, a liter of the house red and a Margarita pizza. That was our first order before we were mesmerized by the assembly-line process with a personal touch.

Pieces of dough are pulled from a large mound and formed into the size of tennis balls. These are rolled flat and stacked. Initially, there were two men making the pies. One rolled, creating a flurry of flour, one checked supplies and fed the wood-burning oven. The maestros then methodically cover some with sauce, most with cheese – a lot of cheese – and then the specific topics that included mounds of mushrooms, zucchini blossoms, raw sausage (it cooked in the oven), more cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. The marble slab looked like a carpet of pizzas.

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I wondered if the first ones in the oven would be the last out. This wasn’t the case. The guys know their stuff. The pizzas are served unsliced. The crust is thin and easily folds  in half. The ingredients are fresh and flavorful. We enjoyed ours so much we ordered a second just so we could keep watching — and eating!

 

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Reservations   Leave a comment

 

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It’s obvious that my husband and I are tourists in Rome. We wear expressions of awe and confusion. One thing we don’t do is always carry a guidebook. There’s nothing wrong with them, but I was surprised to count the number of people who approached Trattoria da Teo with books in hand.

Our B&B host told us about Teo’s. We didn’t know we needed reservations. The restaurant, like most in Rome, opens at 7:30. This was something many with Rick Steves and Frommer’s weren’t aware of either, but a fair number was. Perhaps the guidebooks should be more detailed. We sat in the small piazza watching people go to Teo’s door only to be turned away. We waited more than 30 minutes and once inside were told there was one remaining table available for someone without reservations.

Although this is a popular Trastevere  eatery, we weren’t wowed. The food wasn’t photogenic, but there were a few bright spots, including the lightly breaded calamari with artichokes. Read the rest of this entry »