Saturday, November 6, 2010

NaNoWriMo and a Malbec

As I attempt to complete the next three hundred words necessary to complete my quota for today's NaNoWriMo, I am drinking a glass of Arido Malbec. The Boyfriend is fond of Malbecs, and for twelve bucks it's hard to say no!

It pours a beautiful ruby red, though the nose is a bit lacking. Alcohol vapors are dominant, followed by wood smoke, pepper, and red fruits. It is surprisingly light bodied, and tastes more of dark plums than it does of smoke. It is extremely pleasant, though it's the least Malbec-y Malbec I've ever tasted. It's quite sweet. I am very fond of it.

The NaNo for this year is called Compass Rose, and while it is equally cheap, it has nowhere near the pleasant subtlety. It is, in fact, about dragons. Specifically, nasty tyrannical dragons that decided to take over the world around 1975. It's set in 2010, after a girl with amnesia is found by a mobile hospital unit run by the human resistance. She and her very unique car are taken in by Eyes Ahead, commander of the recon and resupply forces, and the nature of her mysterious past becomes distressingly apparent.

...I am very ashamed of myself. I think I shall continue drinking this wine in order to assuage my guilt at thinking up this monstrosity.

Monday, October 25, 2010

OH GOD THESE RIBS ARE SO GOOD SKAFDIWRHKSA

I literally made that sound when eating some ribs made by the Boyfriend this weekend. It was impossible for me to eat those ribs without making little happy sounds the entire time. They were so tender you could cut them apart with a set of tongs. The dry rub was the same one he usually uses, so at first we weren't sure why these were even better than they normally are. We determined that it was because he took them out of the smoker after two and a half hours, and then put the suckers in the oven for the next three, putting a mop-sauce on them every half hour or so. This took a normally fantastic recipe into the orgasmic territory.

I love ribs.

I also love wine, as we all know, but ribs aren't really a wine food, right? WRONG! If you are making spicy, dry-rub ribs, then you want some Black Box Pinot Grigio.

That's right.

Boxed wine.

Most wine drinkers will turn up their nose at boxed wine, but I know better. Have you ever ordered beef burgundy at a restaurant? Even chances that the Burgundy used was from a box. Or perhaps you got a white-wine sauce on your pasta. Probably from a box. Boxed wine is awesome for chefs, because it fits easily on a rack and generally provides a nice, even, "winey" flavor. 

That's all well and good, Stark, but you don't drink cooking wine, do you? Well, yes I do because I don't bloody well cook with wine that I wouldn't drink, but that's beside the point. Black Box actually produces some very pleasant wine. The Pinot Grigio is light, citrusy, and just sweet enough to cool your mouth after a bite of something spicy. It is not cloyingly sweet, nor is it sour, but it also lacks complexity. It's lightly sweetened lemonade, which is exactly what I wanted after eating those utterly fantastic ribs. 

At the moment however I am not sitting in a fabulous house overlooking the Assateague bay, I'm in my house in Bolton Hill, sitting next to a plastic cauldron and arguing about sociology with DesignBroad and Mr. India. This would be less pathetic if I were not sitting across from DesignBroad right now. 

I am drinking a glass of Venta Morales Tempranillo, which is "extremely quaffable" according to DesignBroad. She's right. It's a light to medium-bodied red with a nicely peppery flavor and no aftertaste to speak of. It is not heavily tannic, which I appreciate. Again, not particularly complex, but quite pleasant.

Tomorrow I'm going to show the schizos at work The Great Pumpkin. That should be pretty cool. Until then, continue drinking!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's a Good Day.

As I walked into work today I was greeted by Harrison, an extremely fat man of mixed heritage. Harrison's traditional greeting is "Good GOD she so beautiful! My son..." and then word salad for about two minutes. This time, at the end of his babbling, he shouted "When I was nineteen I ran the race and I told them they could KISS my TAN ASS."

...right on, Harrison. Right on.

Later, I was threatened by a pedophile, a paranoid schizophrenic helped me carry my coffee down the hall because he didn't want me to burn myself, and my coworker got propositioned by a developmentally delayed meth addict.

Working at a mental hospital is TOTALLY AWESOME.

I'm not even kidding. I love coming to work and listening to Harrison telling me about his son (to whom I am apparently engaged?) and encouraging me to win at Wimbledon next summer. Oh, forgot to mention: I'm Maria Sharapova to him, apparently. My coworker is the Queen of England. She's also an extremely dark skinned black woman. I don't know where he gets this sort of thing, but it's utterly hilarious.

Still, I have a lot of responsibility now. I have a caseload of four clients (none of whom I will discuss on this blog. "Harrison" is a composite character, and that's not the name of any client in our ward) along with twelve credits worth of classes. I recently was let go from my job at the call center, which was a sad parting. I genuinely enjoyed that job, and we parted on excellent terms. Hopefully I will work for them next summer. I'd totally post a link to them if I didn't think they wouldn't appreciate the traffic from the Drinking and Swearing Blog.

Speaking of drinking, I'm a broke-ass graduate student who just managed to get a ninety dollar speeding ticket, so I'm drinking the CK Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc that Hootie McBoob brought to my house a while back. It is... wine. White wine. When you think "dry-ish medium white" this is what it tastes like. There is no complexity, no real nose to speak of. Granted, I just destroyed my palate on some really fabulous Indian food from Kumari, so this could be the best goddamn wine ever and I wouldn't know. I doubt it. Though hey, for twelve bucks for 1.5 liters, it's pretty much the best you're gonna get. At that price, the best you can hope for is "inoffensive," and it's certainly that.

We also have a new cat. We have two now. Black Cat and White Cat. They are also known as Lady Cat and Broheim, or rarely by their proper names: Leili and Cygnus. Cygnus is currently sleeping on my lap and being generally adorable.

It's a good day.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pesto and White Wine

The one lovely thing about living away from ones parents is the sudden ability to cook exactly what you are craving at any given moment. The one problem about living away from my parents in particular is that my father is such a stunning cook that everything I make by comparison is bland and unfortunate.

Of course, he has a lifetime of experience more than I have, and he probably has the sense not to use homemade pesto on rotini of all things. What was I thinking?

For those of you who don't know (and those of you who should but are just ignorant doofuses, and I'm looking at you here, BeerSnob), there is actually a very good reason for the wealth of different shapes for pasta. Each shape is designed to be a very specific sauce-delivery mechanism. Rotini is good for creamy sauces that would fall off of spaghetti, but terrible for thicker sauces like this particular pesto I made. The Pasta to sauce ratio is sadly lacking. Also? It needs more garlic.

Though, I will say, the sardine toasts I made taste AWESOME with a spread of this pesto. I know what I'm having for lunch tomorrow!

With this pesto and sardine-toast monstrosity, I am drinking Picpoul de Pinet Couteaux de Languedoc. If you're looking for a cheap, dry white that won't scare the neighbors, this is it. When you open the bottle (a screw cap, which honestly I'm starting to like more and more) you are instantly hit with the aroma of apple cider. The apple sweetness on the nose is not indicative of sweetness in the bottle: it is quite tart, blood oranges up front with a touch of that yeasty flavor you get from a particularly good bottle of champagne on the finish, which is not particularly long or complex, but smooth and pleasant. It has a very prickley mouthfeel. It makes the finish cleaner, the flavors crisp where they could have gotten stodgy. It handily brings out the garlic in the pesto I'm eating, which is really useful, since it lacks flavor.

Oh well, nothing for it but to try again. Luckily, basil is cheap at this time of year, and the Boyfriend's basil plant is freaking HUGE. No, that's not a euphemism. The basil and pineapple sage in his garden are merging into one massive plant of deliciousness. I am so jealous, since my basil plant died a spindley death.

I will try this recipe again, probably with better nuts (oh yeah, did I mention that I used walnuts too? yeah pine nuts are expensive and I'm a graduate student). The wine, on the other hand, will remain the same. This is a fabulous house white, and I would recommend it to anyone.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Shiraz and a cat

Last week our home was graced by the presence of the MusicMan. MusicMan and I went to high school together, and then pretty much stopped hanging out for a much longer time than was actually reasonable. We used to walk home from school, singing terrible Nu Metal and occasionally building a nightclub in his basemant. Oh yeah. We were pretty cool guys.

Anyway. MusicMan, RieslingSnob, Designbroad and I went out to dinner at Joe Squared last Thursday, which is a pizza place a few blocks away.

Holy crap. People had been telling me for ages how excellent Joe Squared is, and I kept brushing it off. I mean sure, I like pizza, but meh. I went to a few pizzarias in Naples and pretty much decided that I've been ruined for pizza in this country. I was so wrong. Joe Squared is awesome and you should go. Right now. Yes, even those of you who live in England. Don't argue with me. I'll cut you. Like a pizza.

MusicMan and I decided that what we really needed was a bottle of wine. Now, the wine list is broken down into varietals, but doesn't tell you what the actual wine you're getting is. So you see that it says "Cotes du Rhone" and "Merlot," but whether it's Sutter Home or H3, you don't know! This is probably for the best, because had I read its name I probably never would have ordered the Royal Bitch Shiraz.

Anyone who has known me in any capacity knows my predilection toward swearing like a sailor with a stubbed toe. I like cussing. "Shit is Fucked Up" is a great song (they played it at the concert. I squealed like the fangirl I am). Still, I tend to look askance at wine bottles with coarse language. If you have to stoop to cussin' to make your wine interesting, you've probably not made very good wine, is my thought.

It was actually pretty tasty. Mellow, light bodied, and pleasantly spiced. My first impression was pork loin with peppercorns, which is a pretty bizarre first flavor impression. The heavy, gamey taste, thankfully, dissipated as the wine breathed, leaving behind black pepper and dark red cherries. It was quite enjoyable, and it disappeared rapidly.

On Friday I went to a party at WAC, which was delightful because I haven't seen Captain Class, Cashew, Lady N or Matchatchee in quite a while. It was good, especially since Matchatchee (she's Polish, her name uses more consonants than I know what to do with) is headed off for more hipster-y climes. We'll miss you, you hippie.

At any rate, at this party I brought my strawberry infusion. You know, the one that has been sitting unopened since March 11. Holy science that is some good liquor. It's all sweet strawberries, and about two seconds after you swallow a wave of alcohol hits you. Lady N summed it up pretty well: "It's like strawberry pie's whore sister!" It's really really good. Like, almost too good to mix with anything else, though I'm tempted to mix it with a little cream just to see if it works.

On Sunday, for the traditional Land Otter Sunday Night Dinner, I made chicken braised in hard cider with apples. I'm eating the leftovers now. It is insanely delicious. Like, even without the bacon that the recipe recommends. It's sweet and meaty and appley and whooooa I'm all about it. Oddly enough, it involves one of my least favorite foods: the onion. But this onion gets cooked and cooked and cooked until it absolutely melts in your mouth, leaving you with perfect sweetness and chickeny apple goodness. It's totally worth the bottle of cider used for cooking. It's also worth it to buy the darkest and driest cider you possibly can. I used 802, though Strongbow might have been better. I would have used Magners, but I don't think I could let any of that go without drinking it down immediately. I LOVE HARD CIDER.

It's surprisingly good with a glass of the Chandon sparkling rose that's been sitting in my fridge, opened, for the past four days. There's a recommendation for you. You want a wine that will last for bloody ever, even open? Chandon sparkling rose. It even still has some bubbles left!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Everybody's working for the weekend

The last two weekends have been spectacular. I don't know if I mentioned the Offspring concert I went to, but I should have. Holy shit, I love that band. I was sad they weren't headlining, though, because they ended up just playing a handful of their big hits instead of Nothingtown, Rise and Fall, and Trust in You, which are three amazing songs that don't get played often enough outside of my own car.

Anyway. There is a strange thing I have noticed about beer at sports and concert venues. First, it is always American lite beer. Coors, Miller, and Bud are pretty much the only options. Occasionally you'll find Bud Lime, which tastes like someone once described drinking a corona with lime to a person who had only ever eaten lime jolly ranchers before. Even so, Concert Beer is delicious. Partially because you end up wearing it when someone elbows you in the arm, I think. Same goes for Baseball Beer, perhaps doubly so, since it was so brutally hot this weekend, and at least Jiffy Lube Life (worst. name. ever.) had some ventilation coming down from the stage.

Would you know, I have never been to a losing Orioles game? This weekend was no exception, when my boyfriends family took me out to Camden Yards. It was a good game too, some spectacular plays (are they plays in baseball? I do not know) were made. The seats helped too! We were right next to the news box, right behind home plate. I could actually read the names on the backs of their shirts!

I want to make a joke about Luke Scott or Ty Wigginton but I really don't have one right now.

ANyway. We have begun a tradition at our apartment (apparently we're Land Otters... I don't know. Design Broad and I probably shouldn't be allowed to name things while we're at work/school) of having Sunday Night Dinners. This past weekend, Design Broad made vegetarian chili, and her friend Riesling Snob brought the wine. He brought a very pleasant Blue Vin Riesling from the Mosel valley that had been recommended to him by the wine people at Corridor. It was very light, very pleasantly balanced. It had a citrus tartness as a counterpoint to the honey, which was not terribly cloying. It was really good with the chili, which was not as flamingly spicy as Design Broad wanted, but hey.

We also had an exceptional Lan Crianza, which was at its peak of drinkability according to the handy little graph on the back of the bottle. I love it when wineries add SCIENCE to their packaging. They're marketing their way right into my booze-sodden little heart. This was a very peppery, very smooth wine with a finish like crunching into a black peppercorn. It was not terribly heavy bodied, but the velvety mouthfeel added a lot of class.

Basically what I'm saying is that it was way too fucking hot for that wine, and we need to get some of it for the fall. The Internet is saying good things to me about the price, so that's reassuring. I love it when good wine is under 15 bucks.

Next Sunday Night Dinner will be chicken thighs with apples braised in hard cider. There is no smiley emoticon big enough to express my joy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A short story

Here, have a hastily written short story based around the book I'm writing.

_____________________________________________________________


“She rode a horse.”


Je’Sorto smiled, showing sharp, white teeth. I wasn’t used to seeing him like this yet, in his real body. I was used to him being a skinny and pale guy, awkward and skittish, not an eight-foot tall, grey-furred shapeshifting monster. His ears, long and broad like a desert fox, were settled back and low, the tips brushing the back of his shoulders, facing toward me in a way I was told meant contentment. The low light caught his delicate fur, the UV reflective hairs showing brightly, making his massive, torso-covering tattoo stand out starkly.

“You have to understand,” he continued, looking at me with those acid-green eyes, lacking both white and pupil. “We’re true hermaphrodites, so we don’t use words like ‘sissy’ or ‘pansy’ to discuss weaklings. None of our insults are inherently gendered, because we don’t even have that concept. Instead, when you want to say someone can’t pull their own weight, or that they’re weak, you say that they ride a horse. Only the very old and very weak ride horses, the rest of us can run almost as fast on four legs.” His face lost some of its humor. “Most of us, at least.

“Cavalry was a relatively new concept. We’re primarily carnivores, herd animals get nervous around us, so we got on the domestication train a lot later than you guys. The ones who lived out on the plains figured it out way before we did. By the time Mau Sithren, the capital city, got the idea, the nomadic clans of the plains were doing it for hundreds of years.

“They were our enemies and our ancestors. Before Dineruk, that was where I was born, was settled, there were the nomads. Clans Ritu and Denu, who would feud and bicker for centuries, were both born out of the Denairiij, the clan of the Red Dust. There’s an interesting story about that too, actually…” His voice trailed off. He looked out the window, resting his chin on one clawed hand.

“Anyway. I was a potter. I liked to make things that were pretty as well as functional. My gift, the control of fire, was very useful at this time. To be able to control the heat in your kiln to a fraction of a degree… it was good. It made me a good potter.

“It was early fall, just before mating season. I was male that season, which meant I had to put together a dance, a display for the females. I was practicing my dance when someone sounded the alarm.

“I kind of expected it, really. Raiders hit pretty much every year just before mating season, when everyone was just crazy with sex hormones and the least able to fight coherently. So I ran, first on two legs and then on four when my body caught up with my brain, and, without pause or thought, ran directly into a horse.

“If you ever have the opportunity to clothesline a horse with your face, don’t do it. It hurt. It hurt a lot.

“I don’t really know how I got up there, I must have shaken something loose in my head, but the next thing I knew I was on a roof. It was good, dense thatch, made by my mother as a matter of fact, and it held my weight.

“Raiders were streaming through the town on horseback. They were headed for the grain silos next to the temple. I watched three raiders pass under me, all painted with red and white clay. I crouched, determined to tackle the next one who passed, to get him off of his horse and to rip out his throat with my teeth. That would impress everyone, I thought then, and make me one of the most attractive mates in the village.

“It was a terrible plan, but it turned out to be the best one I ever made, because it introduced me to Si’Toa, father and mother of my children.

“I hit her like a wrecking ball, my teeth and claws were buried in her side before we hit the ground. Her horse screamed, panicked, and ran away. I’m sure it ended up someone else’s dinner, but I couldn’t even think at the time.

“You’ve heard the term ‘bloodlust’ before, right? You’ve probably not ever felt it. This was my first mating season, my first experience being male, and while I knew that the raiders usually hit during mating season, I had not been aware that they generally only sent out females who were in heat.

“To give in to desire would mean death, I knew that, distantly. Still, it made me pause, I delayed the killing stroke, my teeth grazing her throat, her pulse hot under my tongue. She was breathing hard, and I made the mistake of pulling away and looking into her eyes.

“Si’Toa’s gift was a subtle one. As I manipulated flame, she manipulated emotions. That eye contact was all she needed, and a flare of lust surged through me. I reared back, my stupid, adolescent brain focused on a single goal.

“And then she stabbed me.” He lifted an arm. “You can still see the scar, under the fur.” He showed me a tiny white line just underneath one of the black stripes of his tattoo. “That bitch! We don’t value scars the way you people do, marks that we can’t change are shameful, hence the use of tattoos to mark criminals. Whenever I accused her of riding horses later, she would jab me in the side where she stabbed me.” He shook his head, smiling sadly.

“I was losing blood quickly. I was still quite young at that point. Later, when we went to war, I learned how to move my blood vessels around, to isolate a damaged area. It’s a useful trick for a soldier, but a potter shouldn’t need to know how to do that. So I bled and bled while she kicked me away and laughed.

“Shows what she knew,” he said smugly. “I got up, still bleeding, and tackled her again. She was ready for me and got loose again. Her fur was matted with blood from both of us, and I was struck suddenly with how beautiful she was, like an angry god.

“She was as tall as me, which was rare to see, and where I kept my hair short and in a mohawk she had hers long. She didn’t have much of a nose, she told me later that she felt it was just something more to break, and her mouth was wide with thin and supple lips. Her eyes were blue like a robin’s egg. Her face was painted stark white with a single diagonal slash of red. I wondered if it had been paint of if I had messed up her face with my blood.

“She was ready for me to tackle her again, and she spat on me as I tried to stand. That was more insult than I was willing to bear, even from an angry god. So I set her on fire.”

He flinched, his ears swiveling back, discomfort written on every line of his face. “I heard her screams in my sleep for months. Fire is a terrible way to die, and a harder thing to live through. My last thoughts before I lost consciousness were those of regret for killing something so beautiful.

“I thought that maybe I’d paint her likeness on a wine amphora, in memory.

“I woke up the next day. Someone had cleaned and dressed my wounds. I was in the temple. I was very weak. Someone was standing over me. It was Juth, a priest of the storm god. I liked him, he kept secrets well. I’ll tell you the story of him and my friend Sef’Teral some other time. After welcoming me back to the world and giving me water, he asked me what I wanted done with the one who had tried to kill me.

“’She’s not dead?’ I was surprised. I put everything I had into that blast of flame. ‘What did you do with her?’

“’Well, we took her to the judge and he said that it was up to you. You stopped her from getting to the grain stores, and she wounded you. As a citizen it is your right to decide what to do with your attacker.’

“I asked him to take me to her. He had to let me lean on him, which was an awkward thing since I was easily a foot taller than him. He brought me to her bed.

“Her feet were burnt badly, but the rest of her was barely singed. I had burnt off that beautiful, stiff hair, but even in pain and unconscious, she was the most lovely thing I had ever seen. Juth cautioned me against thinking with my sex. ‘She’s beautiful, but she tried to kill you and will do so again as soon as she wakes up. Kill her now and save yourself a lot of trouble.’

“This was good advice, but how could I obey? I was an artist and she was so beautiful. It would be easier for me to destroy my kiln than it would be to destroy her. Instead I decided to personally tend to her injuries.

“Everyone told me I was being an idiot. My mother especially. Our people aren’t typically monogamous, we don’t marry, and we’ll mate with several people over the course of a season. Sometimes, though, we’ll meet someone who just fits, and we pair bond with that person. My mother had never pair-bonded with anyone, and thought that I was wasting my time. She was in my house every day that I was at Si’Toa’s bedside, yelling to me that I was being an idiot by not practicing my dance. She didn’t want me to shame her when I danced, to be reduced to forcing myself on someone to breed.

“Si’Toa thought I was being an idiot too. When she woke up she was confused, she thought I was her raid leader. When I disabused her of that notion she spat at me again, called me a moron, and vowed to try to kill me again the second she was able.”

He laughed then, a deep and rich sound, utterly unlike the laugh he had in his human form. “That came sooner than I thought, actually. She had taken a length of bandage and tried to strangle me with it. I had been keeping my claws sharp for just such an occasion. I cut apart her weapon, knocked her out, and put her back to bed.

“Her feet, as I said, were badly burned, and the floor of my house was swept dirt. Her feet had cracked when she moved, and she got dirt into the cracks. She developed a very bad infection, which made her delirious. I kept her wounds as clean as I could for weeks.

“It took two weeks for her to get over the fever. Her wounds had healed, but the fever from the infection had made her weak. She had kept trying to kill me, but that had almost become a game between us. Once she had a knife to my neck, ready to cut, but she paused, just like I paused, and I was able to take it from her. When I told her to go back to bed that day she just… went. It wasn’t a submissive thing, she hadn’t lost any of her spirit. It was like she has just decided that she was going to stay here and let me take care of her.

“It was during this time that she told me her name. ‘Si’Toa.’ A common name, for someone so extraordinarily beautiful.” He paused. “I guess that doesn’t make sense. ‘Oa’ means ‘grain.’ When you add a T to that it basically means ‘Gold Grain,’ like the grasses of the plains. She didn’t like to hear me talk about how gorgeous she was, and was more inclined to attack me right after I made mention of her beauty.” He looked back out the window, intentionally avoiding my gaze. “Gods,” he whispered. “I miss her so much. Even when she hurt me, reopened the stab wound in my side, I loved her. I would rather she stay and fight me than have her gone like this.”

He shook himself, and returned to the story. “Before I knew it, it was mating season and I had not practiced any dance. I was a wreck. Part of me wanted to stay and keep watch over Si’Toa.

“But the other part of me didn’t want to take care of her. It wanted sex. We’re all slaves to our hormones at some point. Mine beat me up and dragged me out the door to the field outside of Dineruk.

“Gods above, if it weren’t heresy I’d love to show you those dances. The males were all dancing, those of us with flashy powers were using them. Sef’Teral, my best friend and later one of my generals, was calling down lightening to dance alongside him. The females were lining up for it, and I mean that literally. Eventually they’d stop lining up and start fighting, and that would be fun to see too. God, when I was female I knocked out someone’s teeth. I had to make them new ones from ceramic when the season was over.

“I only had a few dance steps worked out, but I was lucky. Pyrokinesis is a pretty rare talent, and I’m really tall, so whenever I stumbled I just stood up tall, hollered, and let loose a blast of flame. I wasn’t doing as well as Sef, who had put thought into his dance, but I wasn’t exactly shaming my family.

“My heart absolutely stopped when I saw Si’Toa, staggering and weaving her way into the frenzy of women in front of the field. She wouldn’t be able to fight them, I knew it. But gods help me I couldn’t go down there and stop her. All I could do was jump higher, spin faster, hope to distract them from her.

“Imagine my surprise when she grabs someone by the ears and hauls them off their feet, throwing them to the side like chaff. I said she was as tall as me, but it was easy to forget how tall we are when we weren’t around others. She was a giantess, and even weakened she was strong.

“And her eyes were fixed on me. She opened the second lid, like so,” He slid aside the acid-green eyelid to reveal his naked eye, with its wavy m-shaped pupil. “This is a challenge. It’s like saying ‘my eyes don’t need to be protected, I am so much stronger than you.’” He closed his eye again, setting the lid back in its normal place. “No one challenged her. It was like a sea parting.

“Whenever I think of home, whenever I think of joy, I remember her walking toward me, feet still scarred, fur still growing back, her eyes naked. It was… impossible to describe. You humans do things so differently. It was beautiful. I bit her when we came together, on her throat where I paused weeks ago. She had her hand on my side where she’d stabbed me, her claws digging into my flesh.”

He went silent then. I had to prompt him to continue.

“And then.. life happened. In the spring she had my child, Je’Temis. The next fall I was female and she was male, and I gave birth to twins, Si’Riath and Si’Muirin. Nine years later, Si’Riath was run down and killed by a warrior from the ruling clan, and we went to war. I committed a grievous blasphemy in my quest for revenge, and Si’Toa and I were imprisoned, tattooed, and exiled. I’ve been here now for fifteen hundred years. I haven’t seen her for more than a few minutes for the past five hundred. It hurts to live here. It hurts more to live without her. We can’t die here, and it hurts even to breathe. There’s a reason we thought this place was hell for so long. I…” He stopped talking, and looked out the window again. “I miss her desperately.”

I took his hand then. His huge, black-clawed, terrifying hand. He gripped mine, taking whatever small comfort I was able to give.

We sat together until the sun went down.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

how much wood would a woodchuck chuck

if that woodchuck were flavored with blueberries?

Probably not that much, because it would immediately be shot and eaten by redneck gourmands and its fur sold by Canadians who have briefly forgotten that it is not the 1700s anymore.

...actually I'm pretty sure that's most of Canada, but I'm from the DC-Metro area so we pretty much assume that all of Canada involves glaciers, moose, and roving bands of rabid Quebecois. Occasionally Alanis Morrisette comes out of her cave and is frightened by her shadow and we have six more months of winter.

It is never summer in Canada. It is merely mosquito season.

This is what happens when you drink blueberry flavored woodchuck. You start thinking about Alanis Morrisette and taking lazy swings at the low-hanging fruit that is our northern neighbor.

Anyway, it certainly tastes like blueberries. It's very sweet, not too terribly cloying though. Like all woodchuck ciders (excepting the 804, which tastes like God loves you), it's not particularly complex. I can't help but consider all of these flavored things to be "baby's first beer." It's what a high schooler drinks because they want to be cool but they don't like the taste of beer. It's certainly drinkable, but there are two bottles of it in my fridge and I just don't see me actually going over there to drink them. I'm much more likely to drink the Natty Boh that was left here by my flatmates boyfriend.

Hey. I'm from Baltimore. It's expected. Don't be hating.










...I'm so ashamed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Okay, this is getting silly.

So, Stark. Why haven't you been blogging?

Well, Internet, I've been kind of busy. In the past few months I've been moving in to an apartment in Baltimore, in a neighborhood called Bolton Hill. If you're a Baltimore person, it's right next to MICA. This past weekend was Artscape, and thusly my neighborhood was flooded with hippies of all stripes and colors. Most memorable was the homeless dude who decided to do some late-night yoga in front of our fence. Better than peeing on it, I suppose.

I've also had the opportunity to go back to Centro Tapas Bar, a narrow place in Federal Hill with astoundingly reasonable prices and absolutely amazing food. The only problem with this place is that whenever I try to get there, I end up lost and in the ghetto. This time my epic travel fail involved screwing up the light rail system and ending up in Sandtown. THAT WAS AWESOME.

Stark, you may well ask, how the hell did you end up in Sandtown trying to get from Bolton Hill to Federal Hill? I HAVE NO IDEA. I AM REALLY BAD AT THIS SORT OF THING. IT IS A SERIOUS PROBLEM.

Anyway. By the time we got to the restaurant, it was still totally worth it. The tapas at this place range from 3 dollars to 12 dollars, most of them capping out at about 8 bucks. Whenever I go, I make sure to get a plate of cabrales, a delightfully stinky blue cheese, and some boquerones, pickled and marinated white anchovies. Fabulous. The bread that comes out as an appetizer is wonderfully crusty and flaky, and it comes with a pimento and smoked-paprika olive oil for dipping, which pairs beautifully with a glass of Dibon Brut Reserves sparkling wine.

We also ordered approximately seven buckets full of red sangria. We never got water, an oversight by a frantic waitress, and so I ended up drinking sangria every time I wanted something to cool my mouth off with. I regretted this the next morning, but man, that was some good sangria. With my dinner (mussles and lamb meatball skewers, shared with Mr. India) I ordered a glass of peppery viognier, which paired fabulously with the mussels. At the end of the meal, the Boyfriend ordered a little caramel custard. It was good on its own, but if you took a bite with a mint leaf and washed it down with a spicy ale, it became the Best Desert Ever.

I recommend this place highly, the wait staff is fun, the prices reasonable (dinner and extraordinary amounts of wine for myself and the boyfriend came out to just under 75 bucks), and the food is amazing beyond belief. I recommend the Arepa Mechada, a corn cake topped with oxtail, avocado and fried egg.

In other Drink With Stark adventures, I found a liquor store on North Charles called SPIRITS and I am in love. It is full of wine, cheap wine, cheap and delicious imported wine. I got a bottle of French sparkling rose (still not champagne) and a bottle of cava, both for under 13 dollars. JACKPOT. It's not a difficult walk from the house, either, though the streets may become a little harder to cross when they're not barricaded for Artscape.

Also distracting me from updating this blog is the fact that I am engaged in writing Rising Mind again. This version is significantly darker than the NaNo. I will probably post excerpts, because I can.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Strawberries! And kiwis!

When I planted my strawberries I had this bizarre impression that I was going to have enough berries to make tarts and shortcake. This would be true, but instead every morning I go out to water them and I pick the one or two ripe berries and eat them right there.


They are incredibly delicious.

This was the best decision.

Speaking of Fruit Decisions, my boyfriend went insane a few weeks ago and came back from Home Depot with two thornless blackberry bushes, two blueberry bushes, and a male and female kiwi.

Okay. I can get behind blackberries. I *love* blackberries. And blueberries are good in pancakes and muffins. But kiwis? "Do those even grow here?" I asked him.

"Sure! They grow in New Zealand and we're at a comparable latitude!"

"...You're full of shit."

"Yes but this will work! Now help me build a trellis!"

So we built a kiwi trellis, which was basically a 5' high box without a lid that he plans to string wires across. This entire time a little sandpiper who decided to lay her eggs in the old garden was cheeping and flopping about like she had a broken wing to get our attention away from her eggs. Go away, dumb little sandpiper. We do not care about your eggs. Of course, because we wanted to put the blueberries in a place even nearer to her next, we were unable to put those in the ground. But we did manage to plant the blackberries and build a serviceable trellis for the kiwis (really).

He's going to have a much more badass garden than I am. But that's because I'm trying to move out and mom and dad don't want me to wreck the yard with a tiller. Of course if we get the apartment in B-More that we're looking at...

THERE WILL BE CHERRY TREES.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sofia blanc de blancs

Many wine bars/restaurants in my area end up feeling stodgy, aiming at a middle-aged upper-middle class clientelle. I can't really blame them, that's the group that has all the money. Still, my early-twenties broke-ass self would really appreciate a place that takes itself less seriously. Of course, that can be another trap for wine bars: becoming so trendy that they drive away older patrons.

Victoria Gastro Pub has all of the trimmings of a proper, high class wine bar and restaurant. It looks rich, but there's something about it that puts you at ease. After a while I realized that it was the radio. They were not playing the standard "top hits from the 1820's 30's and 40's" like many upscale places seem to do. It was playing alt rock intermixed with some top 40s, which took the edge off of the pretension.

One of the best things about Victoria is the food. And I am not just saying that because my direct supervisor is married to the chef. Okay, maybe that's a part of it, but not a big part. The duck fat fries specifically are the tastiest things I have ever put into my mouth, being smothered in duck gravy, gruyere cheese, and little awesome bits of ducky goodness. The tuna tartare is fabulous, with delightfully rich tuna and little pieces of apple that provide a really interesting contrast. The Boyfriend was a big fan of the banana chips that came on the side, but I am still convinced that all bananas contain spider eggs, and will not eat them.

We also had a bowl of asparagus, lemon and goat cheese soup which was possibly the best thing ever on a spring night, and a plate of frogs legs. I'm not a huge fan of frogs legs, I think they're too fiddly and the taste vs texture thing throws me a bit. Of course I won't turn up my nose at the little amphibians, but They're not my fave.

What really stole the show for me was the wine, which you knew I had to get to at some point. I was craving bubbles, so I ordered whatever sparkling came by the glass without really paying attention to it. It turned out to be Francis Coppola Sofia Blanc de Blanc, a California sparkling wine that comes in a can.

You heard me.

In a can.

With a straw.

This really blew my mind for some reason, and I was barely able to focus for long enough to actually taste the wine inside. It was sweet, with apricot notes on the nose, but tart, with a bit more lemon than apple and very little of the yeasty flavor that one finds in some sparkling wines. I blame the Muscat. Still, it was not cloyingly sweet nor was it aggressively tart. It was clean, bright, and balanced, and it went REALLY well with that asparagus soup I mentioned earlier. I would definitely order it again.

The can, though. I still have it because it was kind of adorable. It really didn't change the taste of the wine at all, and, as the Boyfriend pointed out, it is a brilliant marketing strategy. It's a perfect club sparkling, light, easy to drink, and more important for bartenders, easy to store and easy to open. In a restaurant it's lacking a bit, I kind of like the pomp of the wine opening display, but you usually don't get that when ordering by the glass anyway. I recommend this highly!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Not dead, still drinking

well, shit, this Blogging thing looks like it crapped out on me a bit. Oops. The issue is that every time I start writing Rising Mind like a good little author I stop updating the blog. Also I now work a 9 to 6 job and rarely want to compute when I get home.

These are bad excuses.

I would like to apologize by telling you all to go to 13.5% wine bar. It is wicked awesome, the waiters will snark at you, and the wine is FABULOUS. I had a glass of rose cava that tasted like raspberry-lemon bars, except without any sweetness with a nicoise salad and it was heavenly. BeerSnob got a beer that involved evolution somehow. Survival of the drunkest? I don't know. Also some slow cooked short ribs that tasted like jesus, except he stripped the fat off of them. Dude won't eat fat. Crazy.

Anyway. I'm going to try to get back into the swing of this blag nonsense, provided that my brain doesn't strangle me in the meantime with story arc ideas.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cazbar and Sparkling Wine!

On Thursday I had the very good luck to go to Cazbar, a delightful Afghani place in Baltimore that I have no idea how to get back to because DesignBroad took Rt. 40 into the city and I never go that way. I'm going to have to figure it out at some point though, because holy crap, what great food. I got these little tender dumplings, covered in yogurt and some kind of spicy sauce and some wicked tasty cigar pastries. Oh god, so delicious. Go there like right now if you live anywhere near Baltimore.

I also got a glass of Peared Champagne, one of Cazbar's signature cocktails. It was recommended to me by the waiter, and was, at 10 dollars, the most expensive drink on that menu. It was a mixture of Champagne and Grey Goose pear vodka, and I think a drop of pear liqueur. Luckily for me, I am pretty sure I can recreate it using delightfully cheap materials!

Last nights dinner was something less epic. Take out Chinese food paired with Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut sparkling wine. That's actually a pretty great pairing, the MSG and hot pepper laden General Tso's chicken brings out the tartness of the wine in a way you wouldn't expect, and the happy fizzy bubbles remove some of that sickly sweet aftertaste you get from cheap Chinese.

Also it's just a really nice bottle of wine. Sparkling anything on a Friday night is just delightful, whether it's at a bar or in your own home.

This weekend is a weekend of No Plans, which could be nice or could make me go completely mad. We'll find out which later!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

9001 Times Better Than Farmville

It's getting on summertime, and that means Mojitos. But mint is so freaking expensive... how can I enjoy my delightfully refreshing Rum Drinks without breaking the bank on herbs?

PLANT A GARDEN!

But Stark, you may whine. I do not live in a nice area for gardens/I don't want to wreck my lawn with a tiller/I'm about to move out of my house and don't want to leave all my plants behind with my parents! I cannot have a garden for fabulous fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables!

START A CONTAINER GARDEN AND QUIT BITCHING ABOUT IT!
Of course, if you're like me and broke most of the time, it's good to start small. I was lucky in that we owned all of those pots beforehand, and so didn't break the bank on containment devices. The only container I bought was the horse trough up there that the herbs are in, and that was about 25 bucks from Home Depot. The Garden Center is a dangerous place for me to be, because I LOVE plants even though I know jack about them. The Boyfriend (who helped with the garden and even bought me that lovely basil plant) had to talk me away from acquiring a dwarf peach tree.

But seriously, how awesome would it be to have peaches in an apartment?! SO AWESOME.

Anyway, no fruit trees. Here's what I've got:


 MINT! For mojitos, iced tea, schnapps, deserts, and just chewing on while mowing the lawn!






ROSEMARY! For all of the things one needs rosemary for! Rosemary has this tendency to get HUGE, and will inevitably need to be moved out of the horse trough planter and into its own pot. However, while it is small and happily in sunlight, I'm going to keep it where it is.







CHIVES! Which make a great garnish as well as being a fine ingredient.










BASIL! For PESTO. As well as more PESTO and some extra PESTO and did I mention PESTO?

I guess you could put it in tomato sauce too.

This plant looked kind of sad right after we put it in a pot, but after a brief rain shower this morning he perked up nicely. Probably just some transplanting unhappiness.



TOMATO! Specifically Red Beefsteak Heirloom tomato. I bought it mostly for Mom, and selected this specific variety because "beefsteak" made me giggle. I am kind of a tool. This guy got some recycled potting soil, so we'll see how well he does. It looked like fine, dense soil still, unlike the dusty stuff we found in one of the bags, so I figured he should be okay with it.




Oh yeah. You know what that's about. STRAWBERRIES. Who doesn't love strawberries? Nobody, that's who. I've got two of these babies in pots that are probably a leeetle small for them, but they'll do until I can afford another one of those long horse planters. When they start fruiting I'm going to cover them in bird mesh to avoid avian attacks. Freakin' birds.




And finally: LETTUCE!








LETTUCE!










MOAR LETTUCE!

Good lord that's a lot of lettuce. Romaine is a great salad veg, and it tastes awesome all the time. I don't expect much from the Four-In-A-Pot plants, due to overcrowding and the sub-par potting soil we had to use (ran out of the good stuff). The two in their own pots have already gained half again their original size! What awesome plants!




Now, we'll see whether or not these things survive longer than about a month, which is my standard "oops, forgot to water them!" time frame. Hopefully they will thrive and provide me with delicious fruit, leaves, and herbs for the rest of the summer until I move out!

The Lord is Risen! Now Let's Drink! Hallelujah!

Easter was... epic this year. Truly epic. It was a feast of gigantic proportions, and I am larger for it. Our menu was as follows:

Chili sambal shrimp, made by The Boyfriend
Jalepeno Popper Dip, made by The Smalls
Raw Oysters, served by Dad, The Boyfriend, and Mr. Small
Grilled Foie Gras, made by Dad and Mr. B
Antipasta Salad, made by The Smalls
Grilled/Smoked lamb, Small Potatoes, and Asparagus with Hollandaise, made by Dad
Cheeses selected by Me
Irish Cake Bombs, made by Me.

Oh god. So much food. The Boyfriend is a mighty fine cook, which is part of why I like him so much. Unfortunately, he also has the tendency to say things like "Hey, you know what would taste great with this? CAIPIRINHAS."

A capirinha is a wonderfully refreshing drink made with cachacas, a sort of un-clarified sugarcane rum from Brazil. The recipe on the back of the bottle calls for using raw sugar, but we substituted simple syrup, because we didn't want to spill a crapton of sugar all over the floor. Our recipe was as follows

3-4 pieces of lime
1 measure cachaca
simple syrup
lime wedge garnish
sugarcane juice (optional)

Muddle the lime in a lowball glass. Fill with ice. Add cachaca and syrup. If using it, splash a bit of sugarcane juice in. Stir. Taste. Decide it's too strong and squeeze your garnish into it. Realize that you can no longer taste the alcohol. Drink three. Make a bad decision.

You don't *need* the sugarcane juice, which really just tastes like sweetened hearts of palm, but it adds a really nice green aroma to the drink that makes it especially nice on a hot day. I'd caution against using more than a splash, though, as you want the cachaca flavor to come through too.

After a caipirinha, I had a glass of sparkling Merlot. You heard me right. The Pugliese Vinyards 2003 Sparkling Merlot, hailing from the North Fork of Long Island. It is a deep purple-red sparkling wine, that fizzed up in a way that reminded me of that scene in Fantasia where Bacchus visits the centaurs and gets everyone drunk and wine gets sloshed about pinkly. It was actually pretty good, very different. Sparkling wine is such a pleasure, and when you get something that weird that tastes that good, you've just got to go for it. I recommend it highly.

There were other wines, but I found that after a few handfulls of shrimp, a dozen oysters, a caipirinha and a few flutes of sparkling wine that I could not recall much about any of them. In all honesty though, the rum drinks and sparkling Merlot were the highlights of the alcoholic reverie. I cannot recommend these enough. Seriously, go out and get yourself some cachaca and some limes and make yourself one of these, because it's The Best.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A More Different Rose

Sometimes I drink rose wines that are NOT Marques de Caceres! I know, crazy, right?

To begin with, today is the perfect pink wine day. It's sunny, warm, light breeze... and it's been a miserable ass winter. A month ago our lawn was butt deep in snow. Right now our tulip tree is in bloom and the grass is getting taller than I think I can really conscience, despite my totally reasonable hatred of mowing the lawn.

Work was delightful, just enough tables to make money and keep busy, and all of them disappeared exactly at 2:00. So much win. While resetting the dining room, one of the managers asked me if I wanted to try some tongue.

Now, my first thought was "why Jessica, are you coming on to me?" but I don't say things like that at work, because I'm kind of a goodie-two-shoes when I'm not swearing my head off. I had never eaten beef tongue before, offal just rarely shows up on my table. My other coworkers had refused to eat it, and the fact that I agreed to try it made Chef laugh. "Stark will eat ANYTHING!" It's true. I'll pretty much eat anything he puts in front of me. Except tomatoes. I freaking hate tomatoes.

This was nothing like tomatoes, however. It was sliced very thin and served with a really great gravy and little pickles. The texture is kind of weird, it being a totally different type of muscle than regular type beef. It's grainy and... stretchy. But it tastes like good lunchmeat, and with the tart little pickles it was awesome. I'm down with tongue.

Speaking of offal... I also had the opportunity to taste Chef's faux fois gras. He handed me this bread with stuff on it and said "TRY EET." I really didn't know what else to do. It had the silky texture of foie gras, but there was something... off. It didn't taste livery. It didn't taste like meat. It was also very pale. After I finished he told me that it was Monkfish liver.  Huh. How about that? I really didn't even ever think of Monkfish as having livers, but I guess they'd have to have them. Learn something new every day.

Moving on. After work today I bought a bottle of Mouton Cadet rose. Mouton Cadet is the "affordable" wing of Baron de Rothschild wineries, the oldest brand name in wine. I really love Bordeauxs, apparently. Red, white, or pink, they're all delicious. Normally these bottles retail for somewhere between 13 and 15 bucks, which make them a great wine for the broke-ass wine drinker. The rose has a really lovely sweet raspberry nose, and when it hits the tongue it's like a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It mellows into a light, early summer fresh berry taste that makes it a perfect wine to sip on a warm day. It is quite dry, and not heavily tannic, and is a great idea next time you're at the liquor store.

My boys in the Outback!

No, no I really got nothing to say today, except that you REALLY should check out ANDREW AND WILLIE'S VAN-TASTIC ADVENTURE.

Click HERE and watch Andrew and Willie set off on their excursion from Adelaide to Darwin, all videotaped for  your viewing pleasure.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What? A Job?

I got one of those! Woo! Starting on the 12th of April! WIN!

This makes me especially happy because it lets me have Easter Monday off, so I'll actually be able to hang out with The Boyfriend, who will be coming down for the ANIMAL CRUELTY CELEBRATION.

Why do I call it that? Mostly because we'll be eating foie gras and raw oysters. Personally, I don't think oysters count as animals, but bajillions of taxonomists and biologists disagree with me. Still, what oysters really are, are delicious.

Does that comma look right to you? Grammatically it's correct... but it never looks right to me. Grammatically speaking that ellipsis I just used is also crap, but then again I never claimed to be an English Major.

...wait.

ANYway. Additional Good News is that I saw my cousin's production of RENT down in Charlottesville, VA the other day. Great cast, great voices for everyone. Frankly I have no idea when my cousin developed a singing voice. Apparently he's been doing stuff like this for a long time and I'm just a really terrible family member for not noticing. That's probably accurate.

None of this has anything to do with wine or other bits of alcoholism. That's because I drank so unwisely that I do not properly remember anything I drank over that weekend. I am a moron. Still, I was introduced to a lovely wine bar called Siips (oh yeah, two "i's" is how you know it's good) in the pedestrian zone of C-ville where I had a really great glass of... something. It was French and expensive and tasted like smoke and seaweed. Heavenly. Too bad I don't remember a dang thing about the name, thus making this wine journal thing pretty useless.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

St. Patrick's Day, Recipes, Pictures, and an Experience with Fermentation

WOOO ST. PATRICKS DAY KISS ME IM IRISH WOO SHOTS

No, not really. Don't kiss me, I'll hurt you. Also you're not Irish unless it says so on your passport, you nasty drunkard.

I began the day with Bulmer's, because it's delicious. Don't mind the fact that I have no chin, I donated it to help the sober kids in India. The drinking was necessary because I was engaged in making something suspiciously delicious: Irish Cake Bombs.
 Irish Cake Bombs are Guinness cupcakes filled with Jameson ganache and topped with Bailey's frosting. They are also King of Delicious, partially because they are alcoholic, but mostly because it involves nearly an entire pound of butter. Eat your heart out, Paula Deen, but first put a little butter on it. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to hide this behind some sort of cut tag, so just scroll through if you're not interested. Here's the recipe:
___________________________________________
For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache Filling (Updated to double it, based on many commenters suggestions — thanks!)
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional)

Baileys Frosting (see Recipe Notes)
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)

Special equipment: 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer and a piping bag (though a plastic bag with the corner snipped off will also work)

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon or grapefruit knife will help you get the center out. Those are your “tasters”. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.
______________________________________________________

Now, I did a silly thing and thought "hurr bittersweet chocolate they don't have that here unsweetened is like the same thing rite hurr." It is not the same thing and I shame the baking gods. There was improvisation and a lot of powdered sugar, but in the end I made an awesome, slightly-too-thick filling. I should have saved some of it to make truffles with, as it probably had enough sugar and chocolate in it to keep from melting... oh well.

Oh yeah baby. That is cupcake porn. Seriously you guys, you have to make these. Don't get scared by the word "ganache," it's just about the easiest damn thing in the world to make (heat milk, pour on chocolate, stir).

I brought these fine offerings to the bar, where they were appreciated by many. It is time for more Embarrassing Pictures of People I Love.
 
There were also plenty of Suspicious Drinks. Such as the standard Green Beer:

And the ever-present Irish Car Bomb. AngryGinger was not pleased with the development of Irish Car Bombs.
PictureTaker McDrunksalot on the other hand was thrilled:

I hate Irish Car Bombs. Can't chug fast enough. Blurgh.

Moving away from the St. Patrick's Day festivities (including the wicked awesome party in Middle Basement), today I had an Experience with Fermentation. You see, At Birthday Ball we filled up a resealable container with orange juice for mixers. We then never used it and I left the box in Captain Class's dorm room. That was a month ago. This morning I opened it in order to wash it out, so that I could put something else delicious in it.

I do  not think I have experienced that level of energy in a fruity beverage before. It exploded like a poorly maneuvered bottle of champagne. If I had not had the sense to point it away from me, I'd be drenched in fizzy orange bits. Holy science, that was unpleasant. At least it doesn't smell like rotting oranges... probably because botulism is odorless... My god.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Woo! Pictures!

I found my camera cable! It was, as Mauve Shirt suggested, in her room. How the hell it got there, I don't know, because I'm pretty sure it's not compatible with her camera. Whatevs.

Anyway, pretty pretty pictures!
Look at them strawberries. Look at 'em. Ain't they gorgeous? They were tasty too. MOST of the two pounds of strawberries ended up in the jar. The rest ended up in me. Of course, my favorite strawberries are the mutant ones. You know, the ones trying to grow an extra head or something. Like this one.
IT IS ALIIIIIVE. Or not.

I also did a mango infusion this afternoon. What I know about mangoes can be counted on the fingers of one elbow, so these were selected and broken down pretty inexpertly. There were gonna be three of 'em, but...
I sort of assumed that that's not a good way for mangoes to look. QuasomodoMango was not used in the making of this infusion, though I did involve him in making a mess of the kitchen. GOD mangoes smell like flowery ass. I'm not entirely certain about the quality of this infusion, so I didn't make all that much of it.

Finished products!


Oh yeah, check out that bidniss. When I went downstairs to put the mango infusion away with the others, I made sure to give them all a good shake. The coffee was already turning a delightful color, as seen below.
That is going to be delicious. CRAZY delicious.

Of course, I've got about a quarter liter of vodka left, and I'm wondering what I should do with it. Any recommendations?

Monday, March 15, 2010

I keep misplacing my camera cable...

Which means I don't have any good pictures of the infusions I made. LAME. It's a damn shame too, 'cause these ones look particularly delicious. First is a strawberry infusion, made with two pounds of strawberries and enough vodka to fill the jar. Mr. B gave me two old whisky bottles, nice glass ones with a cork. One of them is now full of vanilla bean infusion, and the other with coffee bean. My vanilla-coffee infusion was so successful that I really wanted to make more, and I figure that these two can be combined in all sorts of delicious ways, or taken alone.

Now, these particular infusions have a purpose: they are bribes. Before I move out, I will decant and sweeten them (except the vanilla, it keeps its bean in and takes no sugar). They will be served as bribes to those who help me move in, likely along with cupcakes.

I know beer and pizza is the traditional bribe, but I figure this is more my style.

In wine news, I had a delightful Malbec with the Boyfriend. Naturally I can't remember the name. Luckily, when I got home, I found a bottle of Chateau du Cleray Muscadet Sevre et Maine. I don't... I don't know what those words mean. It's French and I'm not very good at this. The grape is Melon de Bourgogne, which is typically used in Muscadet, which I thought was its own grape. Learn something new every day.

It is a very dry, minerally white, which surprised me, since I see "Muscadet" and think "honey sweet." This is really good, and I'd love to have it with oysters. I'll be getting the chance for tasty, tasty slug rocks soon, since for Easter this year we are having a Foie Gras and Oyster Dinner. Oh yeah. It doesn't get much better than that.

...I'm also just happy because I have flowers. I got a shamrock plant named Padraig. Also the Boyfriend got me some yellow roses and they are beautiful.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Nerd Weekend!

Hooray for nerd weekend!

Last night I met up with BeerSnob, Kaiser TNT and MetalChef to run a tabletop roleplaying game. It was based on the Fate system, which is really great for pick-up games, one-shots, and intense roleplaying. It is super flexible, and because a large portion of character creation is based around putting together shared backstories, it makes jumping into the game really easy. It's wonderful.

My homebrew setting (featuring the Matu'Ashak) was complemented by a tray of brownies and a bottle of Westport River Chardonnay that MetalChef gave me for my birthday/christmas/thing. It was an estate grown wine from Southeastern New England, and it was really, REALLY tasty. Very balanced acids and sugars, citrusy without tasting like juice. It was easy to drink and highly enjoyable, even out of Red Cups while pretending to be monsters. I highly recommend this wine if you get the chance to try it, it's the style of white wine that got me interested in whites in the first place.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Embarassing Pictures of People I Love

Along the path to liver destruction, I have met many wonderful people and said many stupid things. I have also taken many a blackmail picture, and have many a blackmail picture taken of me.

The weekend before last was Birthday Ball, as I'd mentioned before. I showed up as the creepy alumnus, you know, like you do. It was interesting how my photography progressed. Observe.

 
Captain Class and Cashew 

This was early in the day, right after my first sip of Mojito inna jug. I do not recommend Mojito inna jug. Make your own damn drinks, folks. Still, if you like Gatorade and getting drunk, I suppose it would work.

After that, some tequila shots, and a few jars of champagne (couldn't find flutes) My pictures started coming out like this:
                                             
Ghost-deco Princess of Scones

Everyone did look lovely that night, and apparently I had a moment of swearing inanely at a camera. And by a moment I mean three full minutes. My god I had a hate in me that night. A hate and a lot of drink. College is bad for you.

Anyway, the rest of these pictures are going up on facebook as soon as I can manage it. I have a *lot* of pictures on this camera, especially since I haven't uploaded anything since Smarmy of One and Hootie McBoob got married. My word.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wine Tasting!

The wine tasting was, as I predicted, extremely win! We got there around 9:30, mildly hungover from the night before. Getting there early was definitely a good idea, as the place filled up rapidly. The Iron Bridge is a fabulous little restaurant/wine company along Route 108 in Howard County, and if you live in that area and have not eaten there, you must go. They serve foie gras.

On to the tasting notes! This is going to be a long-ass post, so keep your britches on.

We started off with Ricossa Moscato d'Asti, 2009, Italy. This was an EXTREMELY sweet sparkling wine, it tasted rather like honey drizzled over ripe-ripe pears. I found it excessively sweet. Hootie McBoob described it as "Woo Girl" wine, and I have to agree. If you like candy more than wine, this is for you.

Next was Pannier Brut Champagne, NV, France.  I'm the type of wine snob who kvetches about people calling all sparkling wines Champagnes, because it's not Champagne if it doesn't come from the Champagne region of France. Everything else may be Champagne method sparkling wines, but they are NOT Champagne. Now that I've typed that word so many times it no longer looks like a word.

ANYWAY. This was a really bizarre wine. It was super yeasty, and had an aftertaste like sharp cheese. Being the product of my generation, I really do prefer slightly fruity flavors in my wine, or at least something vegetable. This was all yeast. It was cheese on toast. I was not digging it.

Argiolas "Costamolino" Vermentino, 2008, Sardinia, Italy began the "Crisp, Fresh, I'm Thirsty Whites" category. It was an extremely delicate wine, a little earthy, a little floral. It was pleasant, and would be quite lovely on a hot July day. As it was, during a bitterly cold February, most of us found is rather unspectacular.

The only note I have about the Satori "Ferdi" Garaganega, 2007, Verona, Italy says "grapefruity." This was probably about the time where they started wheeling in the food and I got distracted by amazing cheese. My attention span is like that.

The Chateau de Lionne Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc, 2007, Bordeaux, France was quite nice. MetalChef even got himself a bottle of this one. It was tart, citrusy, and felt more like it stood up on its own. At 13 dollars, it would be my choice of a house white if I were in the market for that sort of things.

The Rich, Savory, Toasty, & Luscious Whites category (those are the exact labels on my sheet. It's that sort of restaurant) began with a Claiborne & Churchill Pinot Gris, 2007, Central Coast, California. It had a fresh, lightly alcoholic nose and a sort of "meh" taste. I checked with MetalChef and some of the others, in an attempt to determine whether this was just palate fatigue on my part, but most everyone agreed with me.

My first taste of Pravis Vigneti Delle Dolomiti Chardonnay, 2008, Lasino, Italy was really bizarre. It tasted like buttered and sauteed mushrooms. It was very earthy, very umami, very delicious. According to the wine girls, that flavor is stonefruit. Sure it is. To me it was Portabello mushrooms. I bought a bottle of this one. It was too weird and tasty to pass up.

Benziger Family Winery's "Sangiacomo Vinyard" Chardonnay, 2007, Carneros, California smelled like carnival food. You know, that sort of greasy, fried, suspiciously sweet smell combined with a bit of barnyard and rot? Oh yeah. It was VERY unpleasant. And yet, the strange combination of smells melted into something surprisingly tasty. The sweet butteryness of Chardonnay mellowed out the barnyard flavors, which kept the wine from falling into the one-note oak+butter category.

AND NOW THE REDS.

I probably developed some severe palate fatigue at this point, or maybe I just wasn't into it, but the first group of reds I found... unsatisfying. This was the "Because I'm Easy (to drink) Reds" group, and it started with Bogle Vinyards Pinot Noir, 2008, California. My notes say that it is light, dry, a pale garnetty red, and absolutely unmemorable.

The Paraiso Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, 2008, Monteray California was also unremarkable. In fact, the only note I have on it says "MEH." in big letters. Clearly I should write for the Food Network with my detailed and pithy notes. Hells.

The next wine, Villa da Filicaja Chianti Superiore, 2006, Tuscany, Italy  struck me as rather spicy, but that might have been the egg roll I was eating at the time, because MetalChef and The Ho Formerly Known As Crazy both described this wine as "toothless." A second taste after a drink of water confirmed this. So I guess this is a great wine to have with egg rolls.

I found the Domaine Pelaquie "Laudun" Cote du Rhone, 2007, Rhone Valley, France to be a rather nice house red. It was kind of buttery, kind of fruity, light enough to drink easily for people who don't do reds and bold enough to stand up to some food. I'd call it a chicken and gravy red, but I love chicken and gravy so I'll pretty much pair anything with that.

I really liked the Finca Antigua Crianza Tempranillo, 2005, La Manca, Spain. It had a dried fruits flavor that took me back to my childhood when mom and dad would buy me the "organic" fruit roll ups that were supposedly better for me, but naturally less awesome than regular fruit roll ups, because you know they actually tasted like fruit, and who wants that when they're seven? Well when one is in ones twenties it's a much nicer taste. I bought a bottle of this one.

And then onto the "Big Red Wines That Should Knock Your Socks Off" category, beginning with Suzanna Balbo "Crios" Malbec, 2008, Mendoza, Argentina, which was a little spicy, a little gamey, but nowhere near as delicious as that Terazzas de los Andes Argentine Malbec that the Boyfriend likes so much.

The Qupe Syrah, 2007, Central Coast, California was apparently "V. nice" but not nice enough to stand more note taking.

I really liked the Brophy Clark "Fess Parker Vineyard Syrah, 2006, Santa Ynez Valley, California. It was fruity, spicy, with a long clean finish. Lovely.

At this point my note-taking completely disappeared. For the Turkey Flat Vineyards "The Turk" Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz Blend, 2006, Barossa, Australia I simply say "Nur." and GrogLass told me to not even bother with the Turk Beckstoffer's Victory Vineyards "Parcel Thirty One" Zinfandel. I also have no notes for the Educated Guess Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007, Napa Valley, California. This is probably due to my extreme bias against Cabernets.

However, the Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006, Napa Valley, California was everything I like in a big red without the things I hate about Cabernets. There was none of that harsh, overly bitchy alcohol flavor that the other Cabs had. Of course, it was also the most expensive bottle on the list, and so I avoided purchasing it. Grad students don't pay more than 20 dollars for a bottle of wine. It isn't allowed.

That ended the wine tasting. Later that evening, for my sister's birthday, we opened up a 21 year old bottle of Vouvray that mom got from the Loire Valley. One of the people she was with said "that bottle, open it on your daughters 21st birthday with a good Roquefort, it will be perfect." And so I went out and procured a package of good, real Roquefort (look for the French Appellation d'Origine Controlee marking) and we all prayed that the wine was not corked.

It was not, and was in fact a delicious, golden raisins and honey Vouvray. The sharp, salty cheese was a perfect counterpoint. Hats off to you, nameless Frenchman. You had a good idea.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Oh God Why.

This past week has basically been research into my dissertation on why tequila should be a controlled substance.

Seriously.

Birthday Ball is a celebration of George Washington's birthday at my college. I had a few lovely glasses of Chateau Ste. Michelle, a Washington sparkling wine that is easily on the level of Dom Perignon in terms of taste. There have been blind tastings where it has actually beat Dom in terms of delightful bubbly flavor. I had the brut and the blanc de blanc, and both were lovely and dry, with the crisp, cool taste of green apples that marks a good sparkling. So much deliciousness.

Today is a wine tasting over at Iron Bridge Wine Company. It should be pretty win.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's like the damn alps out there

Holy science, this snow is going to be here until May. It snowed again yesterday, but luckily there was no accumulation in our area. Still, driving is kind of terrifying. Most two lane roads are reduced to one-and-a-half lanes, and I live in a suburb overly fond of SUVs. The snow banks on the sides of the road are around 5 to 6 feet high and about as hard as concrete, and cause a constant disturbance in the peripheral vision.

Basically what I'm saying is to hell with this.

The B's only recently got their street plowed after our SECOND blizzard of the week, so we grabbed them and dragged them over here for choucroute night. For those of you that don't know, choucroute is French peasant food, basically what you have when you've got 1) a dead pig and 2) an old cabbage. It's sauerkraut and pig parts. It is also so freaking huge that it was a two-night deal. The first night I ended up skipping out on due to an invite to Max's Tap House from BeerSnob.

Naturally, Max's Tap House was preparing for their BelgianFest and the vast majority of their taps were being kept empty. LAME. I ended up with a Noble Pils. BeerSnob (shown below) ordered his usual range of stouts, and the rest of us sort of fiddled around. DesignBroad (shown below, looking highly displeased) got the Three Philosophers, the one that involves more yeast than a whore at a french bakery.
 
Don't be fooled by that wine glass. That's beer she's drinking. Max's often serves its higher-end beers in wine glasses, I suppose as a combination of better surface area and lower cost to the bar. Still, it makes one feel particularly silly, as Wellington TNT gladly shows.

PINKY OUT, DAMMIT.
It was quite fun, though the beers were disappointing, so there will be no beer report. Later in the week The Boyfriend showed up for some snowboarding! I love mountains and skiing and pretty much everything about it, and this time I did notice some actual improvement in my technique. I'm not exaggerating my movements enough. You'll notice that the downhill pro's look like they're leaning impossibly far over when they turn, that's because it's the most efficient way to do it. Long story short, The Boyfriend managed to get down a slightly more advanced green run without injuring himself! Hooray!
 ...And then he became the Snow Ninja. That's what happens when you are forced to sneak schnapps into dry counties. Snow Ninjas appear to avenge their beer.

That night was Choucroute II: Choupocalypse, also known as MOAR PORK. Before dinner, we had a sort of bastardized kir royal, made with the really delicious Rondel Pura Raza Cava and my raspberry liqueur. They blended really nicely, the dry Cava and the bubbles neutralizing the super sweetness of the liqueur. It was also pink, which was fitting because Valentines was the next day. I highly recommend that Cava to anyone looking for a nice sparkling wine on the cheap, which probably goes to prove my intense love for Spanish wines.

With dinner we had WILLM Pinot Gris. I may be in love with this wine. It is nice and pleasantly fruity up front, but the aftertaste is... well... fishy. In a good way, mind. It's like the aftertaste you get after eating a really, really nice piece of sashimi. I need to get a bottle of it next time I make Spicy Death Salmon.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Snow Booze! And Pictures!

It's like snow cream, only ALCOHOLIC. How have I been living life without it?!

Well, anyway, as I sip this raspberry truffle delight I will begin with first things first: It snowed like the Dickins yesterday. I do mean that. It was Dickinsean in scope: drifts up to my chest perfectly designed to smother poor match girls, and packable in a way that would give the roughest of street urchins a delight.

Unfortunately this means mother and I had to move several hundred cubic feet of snow from our driveway. Allow me to illustrate:

That is my car. His name is Heathrow, and he is a Ford Focus. The snow banked up along his sides was the height of the snow on our driveway, just about up to his side view mirrors or about two and a half feet. Mother and I toiled away at his, her with a wrenched back and me with my... well there's nothing actually wrong with me, I'm just a stick figure and have problems lifting things. The banks of snow beside our driveway were well over five and a half feet high, and I am just under that, so tossing the shovelfulls of snow was a bit of a strain.

We got about this far down our drive, which is about a third of the way, before we managed to attract a team of teenagers with a snowblower, and with the promise of forty dollars and some cookies got them to clean off our drive that we could go inside and drink some of the terrible riesling I bought.

In my defense it was from the Hessen rheingau, where I grew up. I *know* that the dastardly Germans keep all the good rieslings for themselves, leaving us with a bunch of sugary Mosel river crap (I rather like Mosel rieslings, actually). Well shut up, parentheses, you with your reason, logic and good humor. You're not wanted here.

Anyway, this Liebfraumilch (yes, it was actually called that) was sugar water with a squeeze of lemon. It was rather nice because you could easily forget you were drinking something alcoholic, allowing the nice warming sensation to tempt you out of doors again to watch the High Schoolers engage in manual labor. When that bottle was gone we had a bottle of sub-par Sauvignon Blanc that I'm too lazy to really review.

This morning I engaged in more gratuitous shoveling, this time creating a run for the dog to go pee in.

 
That is the snow piled up at our door, having drifted. It was about at neck height, so at a guess I'd say about 4 and a half feet. I was shoveling along, creating a really nifty looking trench, when I happened to look up at the roof. 
 

...Oh what the hell. I did not come out here to be crushed by a gravity defying overhang of snow.

 
 
It was rather pretty though. Eventually I finished the dog run, just in time for a few episodes of Top Gear, the one in which Michael Schumacher is not, in fact, The Stig. After watching Hammond destroy his nadgers on a motorbike and defeating Team Galactic on top of some pixilated mountain, I discovered a recipe for alcoholic snow cream posted on The Ho Formerly Known As Crazy's facebook.

Holy Science! I cried. This must be tried! FOR SCIENCE!

The Formerly Crazy's facebook recipe was for a chocolate snow shake, but I lacked chocolate cream liqueur. I do have a half pound of high quality chocolate though, and so should probably get on that. Anyway, I used her recipe as a base and created a delightful raspberry truffle snow drank.

 
Now that's a two quart bowl of snow. Add about a half cup of cream (I had about an eighth of a cup of half and half and a gallon of skim milk so I sort of mixed the two), something like a third of a cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla. Stir it up, making a mess of your kitchen in the process. Next, add your booze.

That's a quarter cup of regular vodka and slightly less than a half cup of homemade raspberry liqueur. Toss in a tablespoon full of Hershey's chocolate syrup and stir it all up, again making a terrible mess of your countertop.
If you are doing it right it will look like nice, healthy pink brains. Pour into a collins glass with a crazy straw and whipped cream.

Now this, similar to a Wendy's frosty, is a drink that looks like it SHOULD be drunk through the straw, but in actuality needs to be eaten with a spoon until some of it melts. It is delicious and delightfully inebriating. It is also very pink, which I guess is appropriate for valentine's day, but not really for Superbowl Sunday, which is supposedly an occasion for manliness. I guess you could easily add and layer food coloring for the colors of your favorite teams.

Next snow booze experiment: TEQUILA.
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