Archive for the ‘food’ Category

A beautiful shot of men playing backgammon in a coffeeshop in Greece. Photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis

A beautiful shot of men playing backgammon in a coffeeshop in Greece. Photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis.

It was a cold, nasty, raining Saturday in Asheville/Black Mountain yesterday. But the fiance and myself made the most of it, spending a good chunk of the day at the brand new Dynamite Roasting Co., right outside of downtown. We enjoyed a half decaf/half Columbian blend of coffee from the french press, and he kicked my butt at some backgammon. The coffee bar/roastery is housed in an old home that was once gutted to make a fireplace showroom. Today the modest old furniture and undorned counter are arranged around a beautiful black and red roasting drum. There is a turntable inthe corner, on top of a couple of crates full of old records. It’s fantastic.

After coffee, we walked across the street to Philly’s, the Hungarian-American sandwich shop adjacent to the Mobile Medic, and ordered one cheesesteak (with banana peppers) to split. Let’s just say it put the sunshine in my rainy day.

So go check out Dynamite. It’s well worth parking in a muddy pothole.


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Right now there is about three inches of snow on my porch. It’s the first decent sticking snow we’ve had all winter, and it’s beautiful. It kinda makes me want to go to bed and wish for Christmas.

The new experience of the day today was my attendance at the local Rotary Club. I went as a guest of my coworker, who attends regularly on behalf of our organization. The first thing that struck me was the homogeneity of the group. The overwhelming majority was of one race, one gender, and on generation. It really makes me wonder what is going to happen to groups like Rotary and to all the good work they do when this generation ages out — maybe something to worry about sooner rather than later. Nevertheless the food was delicious (Swedish meatballs are one of my favorites), the student-of-the-month presentation was heartwarming and the program was interesting. One of the Rotarians had recently spent some time in Tanzania, visiting churches and a brand new hospital.

What I liked most about his presentation was the photo slideshow. After many study abroad and mission trip spiels, it never fails to amaze me how colorful and bright and clean these people’s clothes are. First off it makes me think that if we all still used the sun instead of dryers, that products like Clorox2 would not be necessary. Second, it makes me kinda jealous of this whole form of expression that they have that we do not. I know that people in the Global North use fashion to express themselves, often to a fault, but it doesn’t match the colors and the symbolism and the importance that cloth and pattern has for people in poorer parts of the world.

Of course this isn’t the only message I got from Rotary today, but it was the part that stuck with me. In other news, my friend Anoop Desai made it to the next round of American Idol. Normally I am not a fan, but it’s pretty exciting when you’re watching every montage for a familiar face. Rock on, Anoop Dog. Peace.

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Just an intro note to start with: Normally I get my images from the Creative Commons search on Flickr, and I post the username of the photog and a link to the CCLicense. I generally post these very small. But this time I really wanted to point out the image and the great project behind it. So click on the link about and then click back through all the previous posts. I thing it’s a wonderful idea, and her little playing card paintings are so adorable!

Other than the Lunchbox Project, what I really wanted to highlight is the concept of the waste-free lunch. I know it’s definitely not a new idea (I have vivid memories of an American Girl accessory set that involved a red gingham napkin in a lunch pail… but after a short search I’m either crazy or they’ve stopped making it). But for some reason I’m taken in by it anyway.

All our ziploc bags seem ridiculous. Even the paper sacks seem ridiculous. Even the most irresponsible youngster manages to bring his lunchbox home more often than not (I would think), but for some reason we still pack in containers that we easily can toss afterwards.

The two companies I have seen do this well (and the things I really want to buy and use every week) are these: Laptop Lunches makes a sort of Americanized version of the bento box. They include the outer box and four smaller inside containers, plus a tiny little container for salad dressing, etc. The whole kit comes with some silverware and a book about packing healthy lunches. Unfortunately all the lunchbox books out there are for parents trying to pack lunches for their picky children. This is frustrating as I am neither a child nor a picky eater, at all. But the Laptop Lunch book also has some good grocery-buying tips, etc.

The second thing I think is awesome are these fabric alternatives to ziplocs. I came across some in a store downtown this weekend that carried some with a water-resistant lining and a snapping flap, but I kinda like these velcro ones from Plum Creek Mercantile. Plum Creek also carries these cool bulk bags that you can take with you to the store. I’m really trying to buy certain foods in bulk this time. Between the wasted packaging and all the wasted or simply stale food and spices, it just doesn’t make sense to buy conventionally packaged foods. Lucky for me we have a great natural foods store that has an excellent bulk section. I even got my soy sauce in bulk, and I think I paid like 97 cents for it.

So just a bit of an eye-opener/cool trend that I wanted to share. Developing my wish list and my shopping list. Healthy food, healthy planet. Peace.

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Rack and Soul

The name of one of the booths at the Barbecue Festival at Madison Square Park today, which is where I had lunch. I met a good friend from school and we had a good time just sitting in the sun and breeze and discussing work and life and the city. It was so windy (a good thing, given the heat) that from time to time a napkin would wrap itself around my ankle and I would have to take a moment or two to shake it free.

It wasn’t quite as hot today as yesterday, but it was still pretty toasty as I wandered down 6th Ave., in and out of well-air-conditioned stores, all of which were packed with people. I had a nice wander, and at least one successful shopping venture before I made it back to my now-chilly dorm room.

At first I felt a bit guilty about sleeping in this morning, missing any opportunity to see the city. But I think it was a good day after all.

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I figured out how to turn on the air conditioning in my suite. Today it got up to about 94, and with the thermal properties of a city comprising who-knows-how-many square miles of concrete, I’m sure it felt much hotter. I spent much of the afternoon in my room, much too hot to walk anywhere and definitely too hot to go down to the subway platform. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remember thinking that these rooms were supposed to have AC, but I probably dismissed it in part because I’ve lived in non-ACed houses for the past three summers, and I just feel like the sticky hotness is the way summer living is.

Not anymore, thanks to my finding a really grimy switch in the “off” position, on the equally grimy AC unit hidden behind something once used as a whiteboard, as evidenced through the unerasable beer pong tallies on the front, left courtesy of the previous (male) tenants.

Anyway, the past couple of days have been good ones, and full ones. Highlights include an absolutely enthralling (no sarcasm, it really was amazing) presentation by David Granger, the editor of Esquire magazine, one by the creative director at Gourmet and another by the ad sales director at Condé Nast’s Portfolio. I also got to tour the Good Housekeeping Research Institute and pitch a magazine idea (along with a group) for a publication that I truly would love to see get made. The roomie and I have been continuing our evening strolls around the neighborhood, and last night some new friends and I went to the Rodeo restaurant and bar, where there was great food and drink and an excellent band.

Twice this week I’ve gone to a little pan-Asian restaurant on 8th St. called Cafetasia. I found out about it in the Time Out New York student issue, and it’s perfect because it has a great trendy, fancy ambience, but the prices are incredibly reasonable. The food was great both times, and it made me feel like I was having a really upscale restaurant experience without the price tag.

Tonight, after the second visit to Cafetasia, I went to go see War, Inc., the new film starring John Cusack (and Joan Cusack by default) as well as Marisa Tomei and Hillary Duff, with some smaller appearances by Dan Ackroyd and Sir Ben Kingsley. It was playing at a little place in Soho called the Angelika Film Center, which has a full coffee shop with ice cream upstairs, and six theaters and a concession stand downstairs. The theaters were tiny, but it meant they could show lots of independent films at a time. Of course the price was high ($12 a ticket), but it was overall a good experience.

The movie got kinda lukewarm reviews, and although I really liked it, I can kinda see why. John Cusack plays an assassin (again) who is hired by a Halliburton-like company to kill an oil magnate in Turaqistan, with the premise that the war at hand there has been entirely financed and planned by big business. The over-the-top nature of the metaphor earns some laughs as tanks fitted with Financial Times billboards roll past piles of rubble and Cusack has a therapy-session conversation with his personal navigation system, GodStar. But the film probably could have earned some points with subtlety or depth, but its in-your-face tactics will probably draw some attention. Duff and Tomei both have good performances, and overall I think it was a good film.

John Cusack is a great actor because of the films he chooses, but I have to say I feel that he hasn’t chosen the best ones lately. Martian Child was good, but it was no High Fidelity (my favorite movie ever, pretty much) or Say Anything. Must Love Dogs had the perfect part for him, and the perfect part for Diane Lane, but the two together just did not make a believable couple. It would have been two good separate movies. “Is it in fact unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins, is it better to burn out or fade away?”

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A Welcome Feast

The class that I referred to in my last post began tonight, even though classes have not officially started and today is Sunday. The class is about food–almost literally everything about food–and the same professor has been teaching this course for 10 years. He wanted to have an anniversary dinner, but even so I thought it would just be him and the 15 of us students ordering off the menu at 411 West, which is a great restaurant on Franklin Street.

Instead it was about 35 people of all ages and walks of life, and we had a fantastic five-course meal with some wonderful conversation. I’m even more excited about the class now, and I’m hoping I can use this space to chronicle some of it throughout the semester. As it is already late tonight, I will just give the menu with a little bit of description:

I was the first student to arrive, but people began coming in fairly steadily soon after I got there. Not only were there current students, but there were past students, TAs, faculty members and local farmers, all of whom are or were involved in the course in some way. We all stood around and chatted for a while before we made our way over to the food. The first course, eaten while still mingling, was a selection of cheeses from Chapel Hill Creamery, all deliciously flavorful and served with fruit spreads. With that course was served nice flutes of Veuve Clicquot Brut Rose NV, a champagne that I have gathered runs at $50+ a bottle. I always thought that I didn’t like champagne before, but this was quite amazing, especially with the various flavors of the cheese.

After this Jim, our professor, got our attention and said a few words about the history of EATS 101, as the class is called. During that talk I learned a little more about the format of the class, about how 411 often buys as much local food as possible, and some things about the farmer’s market I love so much. As we sat at our assigned tables, we were served a chilled cantaloupe soup (I think it had mint in it) and a viognier/marsanne white wine from Treana Mer Soleil in California. After that there was a salad of local mixed greens. There were supposed to be sungold tomatoes on the salad, but we’re not sure what happened to that.

I was sitting next to Jim’s wife and an office administrator and across from two growers who sell at the market. We had some great conversation about meals and farms and food and life in general, which was refreshing. For our main course we had pan-seared Scottish organic salmon, served with gazpacho, local potatoes, okra and mushrooms, and lemon aioli. With this the servers poured a 2005 Castle Rock Pinot Noir Reserve, which was good. (Keep in mind I didn’t polish off all these glasses — I did have to drive home.)

And then for dessert (or “desert” as Elly’s students often wrote) there was a peach sorbet (not so local) with a cookie, and Bugay Cerdon Sparkling Rose NV, which was sweet and perfect for the peach flavor. I think what was so remarkable about this dinner was the planning, not to mention the flavors and the bringing together of so many different people. I had much in common with the people I was sitting with, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them again for a class or for dinner every Tuesday. Most things about this class are still a mystery to me, but I’m eager for the next installment.

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