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?


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!

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!



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.
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