Thursday, February 13, 2014

Year of the Horse

Near finished product
So I know I’m a couple of weeks late on this blog post, but I’ve been super busy trust me.  I didn’t want to watch the Super Bowl this year, so instead, I went to a party hosted by my friend Lian.  I couldn’t bear to watch this year because of the Seahawks making it to the Super Bowl.  In my head I knew that they would win, but I didn’t want to admit that to even myself.

Action Shot


Taking Photos of photo takers
This party was perfect though, since it would be mostly Super Bowl free.  We did end up watching the halftime show though.  I decided to play along with the theme and ended up making a vegetarian dumpling.  I was secretly hoping that someone would make one with pork, but I didn’t want to be that guy, so I just made a mushroom leek dumpling.

Anyway my dumpling kicked ass.  All of the other fillings people made were really good too, except for that kimchi one.  I absolutely hate kimchi, and I don’t know how anyone can eat it.  The smell of it makes me sick.

I also wanted to make a cocktail, because I’m good at it and I already had something in mind.  I did a test run the night before just to make sure and it ended up tasting great so everyone got the benefit.

Mushroom-Leek Dumplings

8 ounces cremini mushrooms
8 ounces silken tofu
1 large leek stalk, cleaned and chopped, woody ends removed
1 stalk lemongrass
⅓ Cup tamari
Living the High Life
⅛ Pound Daikon radish cubed
About 30 snow peas julienned
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 tablespoon coconut oil

1. Brown the mushrooms and leeks in the coconut.  Bruise the lemongrass stalk and add it to the mushroom leek mixture while cooking.  
2. Deglaze with the soy sauce and simmer for 10 minutes over low heat
3.  Remove the lemongrass and add it to the food processor with the tofu, puree until smooth.
4.  Mix in the radish and snow peas for a little crunch and you’re ready to start filling your dumplings.

Pro tip: Fry your dumplings and when you add liquid to finish cooking the dumplings use vegetable stock to steam rather than water.  It makes a huge difference in taste.

Lychee Drink Thing
So I couldn’t come up with a name.   Hey it’s tasty and that’s all that matters.  I did get sold on a vita mix when I was here, since the one they had there made great drinks even though it was a little bit older model.  Anyway to make a pitcher of this frozen goodness, this is how you do it.

2 Sprigs Rosemary leaves removed from woody stems
2 cans lychees, drained and frozen
Ready to be cooked
½ Cup Gin
½ Cup Green Tea Vodka
½ Cup Ginger Liqueur
Juice of one Lemon
8 oz. Coconut Water
3 tablespoons reserved syrup from lychees

Blend all ingredients until smooth.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Here’s the teaser:
Got breakfast from a food truck.  Found out gas stations lock up their drinks in Portland.  Missed an underground tour of the city. Visited the famed voodoo doughnuts.  Browsed crazy stores in the Hawthorne ranging from bikes, vintage clothes and custom bags.  Had great coffee.  Saw one of my best friends who I haven’t seen in forever.  Almost destroyed his TV.  Had a short 90 min wait for dinner.  Had some great drinks while waiting.  It wasn’t as worth the wait this time but the food was still quite good.  Almost punched a Seahawks fan.

So day two started off with sleeping in a bit but not too much.   We were still out and about by about 10 am.  We decided to get a quick bite to eat from the food carts on the way to our next destination.  I was going to watch the game later with one of my best friends, I wanted to do something that would not interfere with that.  The Underground tour of Portland we thought would be the perfect thing.  It started at 11, but we thought we would make it there in enough time.

For breakfast, I decided to go with a Burger from Brunch Box.  I liked what I had there, but I am not a big fan of their ordering system.  To be honest it was rather annoying.  Why can’t I just tell you what I want and you write it down on the stupid little card for me.  Not to mention the fact that I couldn’t see everything I wanted on the menu on the little laminated menu with checkmarks that you fill in using a dry erase marker.

I went with the Outlaw burger.  It wasn’t that hard of a choice because I did want the Texas toast, but I didn’t want something as extreme as a burger between two grilled cheese sandwiches.  The food was ready pretty quickly and it was a damn good burger.  It played to all of your desired senses, salt from the bacon, sweet from the barbecue sauce and the bread was nicely grilled.

I decided to stop by a gas station on the way to the walking tour for drinks and another odd thing happened.  For the first time ever, the drinks were locked away.  They were being safeguarded as if they were some high value asset.  After struggling trying to open the door to buy one for a bit, the cashier came over and opened it for us and we got a couple of vitamin waters.  Unfortunately this little detour meant that we would miss our tour.  

On to plan B, we would walk back to the hotel, grab the car and head over to Hawthorne to browse through the shops in the neighborhood.  But first we figured we may as well brave the line in Voodoo Doughnuts.  I wondered, before I made the trip if there would be more Seattle fans or San Francisco fans in Portland.  They don’t have their own NFL team and both teams are relatively good as of late.  I’d say, that it seemed to follow about a 80/20 split in favor of the seachicken fans, but there were still a few of the faithful out and about.  It kind of makes sense since Seattle is a two hour drive away where San Francisco is a two hour plane ride away.  

We waited in line for an about half an hour with some mutual banter between fans.  Nothing too aggressive everyone was pretty friendly.  Voodoo Doughnuts was one of the places that I was really looking forward to trying.  I’ve got to say the maple bacon doughnut was pretty epic.  I don’t know who came up with that genius combination of sweet and savory but it was great.  I was so excited that I took a bite before I even snapped a picture of it.

When you consider the extreme wait time, in my personal opinion Voodoo doughnuts is just a really good one time thing, or a once in every great while thing.  I definitely wouldn’t consider it at all if the weather was anything other than nice.

The first stop was a music store Crossroads Music.  This is a place for the true audiophile that is looking for something seriously hard to find.  Though finding it still may drive you a little nuts once you get inside the store.  I was getting extremely frustrated as I tried to find albums because it seemed like there was so many different sections for the same genre.  After visiting the website, I think this has something to do with the fact that they have several music dealers that operate on consignment.  I don’t really seek out stuff that is extremely hard to find so for me it was more frustrating than fun, but I guess I know where to go if I needed some really rare vinyl at a really good price.

I thought the weather in Portland would be quite cold but for the most part I was outside with nothing more than a light jacket.  This made the walk along Hawthorne very pleasant.  Next up we stopped at probably one of the biggest comic book stores I’ve ever been in.  Excalibur Comics has a great selection of comics, many of which I never even knew existed.  I’m kind of a dork but comics aren’t necessarily my thing so I just spent tons of time browsing through the very interesting selection of titles.  The section for my favorite superhero franchise, X-Men, and the many variations of the comic took up a good four feet of table space.

Coffe at Oui Presse
Next was a short coffee stop at Oui Presse, ok I admit I stopped simply because I wanted a cool design in my coffee.  The latte I ordered came out just as such.  The cafe is very bright and it seems like a very chill place to kill sometime especially if you needed to get some things done.  The latte I had there was pretty good, not fantastic, but all things considered it is worth a stop, especially since it gave us a chance to rest our legs a bit before heading back up the street.

After a quick look at some really pricey recumbent bikes, we wandered into Black Star Bags.  The place is really cool, it makes some really unique bags and has a ton of designs available as well the ability to make your own custom bag.  I definitely wanted to pick something up while I was there but unfortunately, I didn’t budget for a random bag purchase of a couple hundred dollars.  The staff there was pretty helpful though and they offer free shipping so I don’t feel like I missed out on anything at all.  I did some s searching on etsy, and they have the cheapest waterproof messenger bags and backpack available.

If I haven’t stressed the fact enough, Portland is extremely weird.  One of the craziest things was the fashion sense.  In true hipster form vantage clothing is all the rage.  We shopped around in one of the House of Vintage for a bit.  It seems as though the sensible option for Portlanders to wear these clothing options of decades past.  Though much of the stuff was very interesting, I am not much for things of old.  I saw a couple of things that peaked my interest a little, but just not anything that made me want to pull the trigger.  I felt more apathy than nostalgia.  That’s not to say that there might not have been some great finds in that store, I just love new stuff.

Random Steet Art
The next stop was Herb Shoppe.  I’m pretty sure you can find pretty much every herb you might need in this store.  As soon as you walk in the intensity of the dried herbs hits you and you can smell a near overwhelming amount of these dried herbs.  It is easy to tell that the herbs are sold pretty quickly based on how potent they smell.  It is probably one of the largest selections of dried herbs I’ve seen.

Then it was game time.  All throughout my time in Portland, my phone’s GPS wasn’t especially friendly, but I didn’t have that complicated of a route so it didn’t matter that much anyway.  I hadn’t seen Doug in a long time.  He was one of my best friends in the Navy and we were roommates for a couple of years.  It was cool to go over and see him and to be honest I kind of envy his huge back yard and deck.

I made that sandwich from the leftovers I had from Ox.  I also got Doug one of the maple  bacon doughnuts, because I figured even though he lives in suburban Portland, he’s the type that would probably never venture beyond like pretty much anywhere that sports, fast food, or a good steak is involved.  Anyway I won’t get started on the game because I am still a little angry over it as soon as the game was over I had to leave because I was so angry and I couldn’t bear to be around any Television.

Khai Luuk Khoei
We went for dinner at Pok Pok. The wait this time was much shorter only 90 minutes.  This time we would wait at Whiskey Soda Lounge.  While we waited I had the Mango Alexander to drink and ordered the Khai Luuk Khoei, deep fried boiled eggs, to snack on.  The eggs were cooked perfectly.  They had this nice creamy yolk.  I also loved the tangy tamarind sauce was perfect with it.  The crispy shallots added a little bit more crunchiness that I didn’t think the dish would need initially, but it definitely worked out well. The Mango Alexander is probably one of the best sweet drinks that I’ve had.  Imagine a mango dreamsicle.  That’s what this glass of awesomeness tastes like.  I will say the one big downside of this place is the way they printed the menu.  Combining the low lighting with a darker colored paper and relatively small print makes the menu pretty difficult to read (and I’ve had LASIK mind you).

It was well under the wait time when the table was ready.  I couldn’t pass up another Mango Alexander because that drink is great.  For dinner I wasn’t too hungry and they serve in small plate style.  I went with two small plates.  The Kaeng Hang Leh and the Muu Paa Kham Waan.  The Kaeng Hang Leh is a spicy pork belly stew that goes with rice.   I could have probably stopped with this dish alone.  The sauce was thick and it is an incredibly rich dish.  I enjoyed it a lot and the pork was incredibly tender.  I must admit it was an interesting take on curry, and I have never thought of the idea of the addition of tamarind to curry.

Muu Paa Kham Waan
The Muu Paa Kham Waan was a genius dish.  I’ve never heard of anything like it before.  It is a boar collar meat that is tender and sliced thin.  It is coated with this bright and slightly spicy yet acidic dressing.  Match that with the chilled mustard greens and you definitely have a winner.  The strategy of putting the greens under ice right before serving is a technique that I will be walking away with because it keeps the greens crisp and keeps them from getting wilted when met with the warm meat.  It’s something that I have to use the next time I make lettuce wraps.

We turned in early for the night in order to get up and see a lot of nature stuff the next morning, but all in all this would have been the perfect day, if Colin Kaepernick threw one more touchdown and one less interception.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


So for those of you who don’t want to read through all that I did in Portland, here is the tl;dr version.

I flew to Southwest to Portland, somehow got free Wi-Fi.  Talked to the quickest rudest rental car agent ever and then navigated the most confusing streets of my life on the way to the hotel.  Got some pho from a food truck and spilled it pretty much everywhere.  Got +1 Tranquility points courtesy of the Japanese Garden.  Saw a dude pissing on the street in broad daylight.  Did some light window shopping where I scored some chopsticks.  Had an amazingly cheap beer at a really great 80’s arcade.  Went to my first clothing store/art gallery combo with live DJ.  Waited two and a half hours for dinner.  Got pretty tipsy at a few bars while waiting for dinner.  Found out it was actually worth the wait.  Had a waitress from a neighborhood nearby where I live now.

I’m not a huge fan of flying.  The exception to that rule is when I have to fly Virgin America.  I especially hate flying Southwest Airlines.  I much rather have assigned seating rather than go through the craziness of fighting over a seat once you’ve boarded.  It’s the worst airline to travel on if you’re flying with someone.  Solo it is pretty great though admittedly.  Still I settled into the fly pretty easily.  We scored the last two seats together on the plane and I sat back and listened to some music while reading a book.  Those Bose® QuietComfort® 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling® Headphones have saved the lives of countless children.

View of Portland from Hotel Room
We got off the plane pretty quickly.  PDX is the biggest oddly emptiest airport I’ve ever been in.  It seemed slightly somber for a Saturday afternoon.  It was a quick walk to pick up the bags before making our way to the rental car counter.  I booked the car in advance through hotwire.  It was a Toyota Corolla, so nothing fancy but it would surely get the job done.  I came across the rudest rental car agent I’ve ever dealt with.  What he lacked in tact he made up in efficiency however.  I was able to ignore his sly comment about how he couldn’t find my reservation because it was for ten (Flight landed at noon mind you).  What stuck with me is the fact that I would need to bring a receipt back for refueling from within 5 miles of the airport.  This outrageous request made me almost not want to rent from them at all.  In retrospect, the closet gas station to PDX is oddly two miles away as I would later find out.

You don’t really need a car at all in Portland, with the exception of the trails that I wanted to go on and such I could have gotten along just fine without a car.  I would go as far as to say that Portland is not only bike friendly, but car hostile.   When you finally figure out which lane you are supposed to be in, it makes navigating the downtown areas much more complex when you have to consider that you may not be able to turn in the direction that you want to turn because of a bus only lane.  It wasn’t too tough though I am exaggerating a bit but you really have to pay attention.

As I moved to check in to the Hilton when I tried to park valet, I found out that I was staying at the other tower.  This meant I had to make a huge circle back around in order to park.  I would end up doing self-parking at the other tower.  This made for a great annoyance for the rest of my stay as the other tower was easy to find by walking, I am easily confused when it comes to direction and use Google maps almost exclusively when I’m driving.  This meant that I would make that same huge circle whenever I went back to the hotel.  I wish Hilton would save the executive tower onto Google maps to make it easier to find.

That aside, we were checked in after a bit of a delay,  I can’t complain much as we were checking into the hotel a bit early, and there was a bit of a line.  Still, I ended up in a room that was on a pretty high floor with a decent view of the city of Portland.  The room was spacious enough and the TV selection at the hotel was large enough that you wouldn’t have room to complain about it.  The internet speed was just fast enough to not annoy you.  I had no problem streaming a few YouTube videos here and there, but you aren’t exactly getting HD quality there.

The main advantage is the location.  It’s pretty central in downtown and it isn’t too far from the food trucks on Alder street.  Food trucks are pretty huge in Portland.  The food at the ones I stopped at were of pretty good quality too making it relatively cheap in order to score a good bite to eat.  Many of them also have very unique bites to eat and there is a great deal of variety as well there.

For my first trip out to the food carts, I was looking for a cart called Mai Pho.  I kind of underestimated the number of Vietnamese carts that would be in the area and I ended up eating at some random other cart that I cannot name now.  I ended up getting the pho and a Bahn mi.  I took everything back to the hotel to eat.  The problem was that the noodles and beef were packaged separately from the noodles.   Me being not so bright at the moment decided to try to dump the noodles and everything into the pho.  Since they were stuck together a bit everything came out in a big thud that resulted in me getting pho splashed everywhere.  At least the food was tasty.

The weather was to me at least, surprisingly warm.  Around fifty, which is for me having left the frozen tundra of Chicago, was hoodie weather.  Still I felt it chilly enough to make a stop at Java Man for a latte on my way over to the Chinese Garden.  It was all you could ask for in a small coffee shop, a very well made coffee that came to our table very quickly.  They also sell bubble tea there which would have been very tempting absent the cold weather.   Still, though this was certainly not my favorite coffee stop along the trip, at least they made that vanilla latte without so much sugar that I was unable to taste the coffee which is often a complaint of mine.  It was actually a very well balanced drink.

Continuing our walk, there was a bit of shock when we saw a guy pissing on the street in broad daylight.  This wasn’t your normal pissing in the street that is done somewhat discreetly up against a wall or something, this dude was just standing out in broad daylight pissing into an open patch of grass.  I seriously thought he was emptying a bottle out or something until I walked past him.  Who pisses on the street like that in broad daylight, there was a child coming from the opposite direction for goodness sakes.

Initially, I did not think that I would enjoy Lan Su Chinese Garden at all because from the outside, the garden seems very small, almost too small for me to justify the entrance fee of nearly ten bucks.  I was very wrong though.  Even with all the people walking around snapping pictures, self-included.  The garden is very peaceful and tranquil.  I got a chance to take a lot of good pictures inside of the garden it was very serene and calming.  I even had a really cool “look, a squirrel” moment. 

Here are some photos from Inside:

While we were in Chinatown, we decided to browse through a couple of the shops over there.  It seemed a little counterproductive considering we were headed to San Francisco, which has a much larger Chinatown, but I did end up snagging some chopsticks in the end.  There isn’t much room for so much Chinese themed items in my household, or to carry back in my luggage for that matter.

Voodoo Doughnuts
We figured by this time the line would have died down outside of Voodoo Doughnuts, but that place always has a super long line.  Anyway I made a stop for more coffee at Café Vita which is just across a pedestrian only street.  This little open window made some great coffee, but they win with the varieties of milk that they offer.  I actually got an espresso there that was pretty good.

The trek continued as we made our way to Ground Kontrol.  Think 90’s arcade with beer.  Astonishingly cheap beer at that.  I may be insulated from good prices on a beer from livening in the suburbs of Chicago, but when I ordered drinks, and the total came out to $8, I thought for sure the price was for one of the drinks, not both.  $3 for Deschutes is a hell of a deal.  Not to mention that evidently Portlanders have that whole crowding around the bar thing worked out and they just get in line to order a drink.

Who can argue with how great of a place this is?  It’s one of my favorites of my short stay in Portland simply because of bringing back so many childhood memories.  They are straightforward and don’t cheat you either as all of the games are very reasonably priced most at a quarter a round, and they use actual quarters as opposed to tokens.  Therefore, you aren’t locked in if you feel like cutting short your play time by a few minutes.

Next stop as we were walking was Compound.  It seemed like a pretty interesting clothing store and I wanted to head in and browse around a bit.  The store had a lot of unique items, and I thought it was pretty cool that they had a live DJ as well.  Then we walked upstairs and found out that there was an art gallery up there.  It was a crazy surprise but probably the only art gallery clothing store combo that I will ever visit that also happens to have a live DJ.  The clothing was s a bit pricey for my taste, so I didn’t make a purchase, but it is a good place to browse for some unique items.
Mole Tots at Bunk Bar

We went back to the hotel, before going out for dinner.  I knew that I wanted to have dinner at Ox, just after reading about the place online and looking at the menu.  When we got there and found out that there was a two and a half hour wait for a table, I almost didn’t want to stay.  Not to mention that their bar next door was beyond packed for standing room even.  This only kind of confirmed that this place was too good to pass up so I ended up agreeing to the wait, it’s not like I had somewhere to be in the morning and it just left us more time to drink, though now we would explore the neighborhood bars.
Mulligan and Cat's Meow at Secret Society

Our first stop was right across the street, in total opposition to the seemingly upscale bar we just checked out, Billy Ray’s Neighborhood Dive, was just that a dive bar.   The problem I had with it is that after paying $3 a beer at ground control, I felt a little ripped to be paying $6 for a well vodka tonic at a dive bar where the smell of urine assaults your nostrils.  It’s not that I’m too good for urine smells, and lime slices that have been cut so long ago that they are starting to turn brown around the edges, it’s just relative to all the places nearby, their drink prices in particular should have been a lot cheaper if that’s what they are offering.

La Yapa at Ox
Out of there and into Bunk Bar though.  I’m of two minds about this place, because I got suckered into buying a really bad drink here.  It just had a too good of a name that I read it without reading the ingredients, I kind of just briefly looked at them.  The name Typhoon Shandy was just too interesting.  IN hindsight a combination of Tequila, Lime, Grapefruit and Beer had no possibility of working.  On the other hand the place had a great atmosphere and the food was pretty good as well.  While we were there we decided to sample the mole tots, which turned out to be a great decision since they were probably the best tots that I ever had.  In hindsight the miscalculation was completely my fault, because there were other great drinks on the menu along with a good beer selection.
Bread ad soup at Ox

The next stop in the wait was The Secret Society.  They had some sort of live performance going on in one of the rooms up there, but we enjoyed a couple of drinks in the lounge area.  Having not quite enough time to enjoy one of the very elaborate absinthe drinks, we snacked on the spiced almonds, which were a steal at only $3.  The perfect pre-dinner snack to accompany our drinks.  The drinks by the way were phenomenal and coincided with the whole Victorian era theme that they had going on. 

We finally made it into Ox.  We got the text message and hurried over to be seated.  What I love about this place is despite the fact that it is an Argentinian themed steakhouse, it is vegetarian friendly and the aroma of the place isn’t dominated by that of cooked beef.  At the suggestion of our server, I decided to go with the La Yapa to drink, and let me tell you it was probably one of the best drinks I’ve had in quite sometime.  It is a well-balanced drink that catered to my love of whiskey, while being sweet and approachable.  You also have a nice bit of lemon to finish off your palate.
Duck Rillette Croquetas at Ox

First thing was a complimentary squash soup.  From there I knew this was bound to be an incredible meal.  It was a rich and creamy soup that wasn’t too heavy that it would weigh you down from the impending meal.  Combine that with the bread that they serve with a bit of a chimichuri sauce and it was fantastic.  I’ve made soups out of squash before and it still boggles my mind how they achieved a texture that smooth.

Mushrooms at Ox
For an appetizer I went with the croquetas of duck rillettes.  I felt a bit of trepidation about passing over the recommended Clam Chowder, but being that I was going to be in San Francisco soon and eating clam chowder out of a sourdough bread bowl, I decided to go for something different.  I must say I couldn’t have made a better choice.  It was the perfect balance of texture, perfectly tender meat that is so smooth that it melts in your mouth and a nice crisp exterior.  It was also well complemented by the celery root and pomegranate.  I swear that I could also live in the lemon aioli.
Potatoes with Horseradish at Ox

For the entrée, I couldn’t pass up on my favorite cut of steak, my beloved ribeye.  The steak was so tender and juicy and from a value standpoint it was one of the best I have ever tasted.  It was cooked to a perfect medium rare with just the right amount of carmelization.  Absolutely sublime.  As a side dish I went with the mushrooms and the potatoes.  The potatoes were the perfect counterpoint to the steak because they had a tasty horseradish aioli.  I still have a vivid and fond memory of taking a bit of steak and dragging it through the aioli to get the perfect bite of steak and potatoes.  Rich beef, alongside crisp potatoes and a bit of spice from the aioli.
The Main Event, Perfect Midrare Ribeye

At the suggestion of probably one of the best waitresses ever, I packed the remaining portion of food to go.  I was about to toss the bread until she suggested that the bread was the perfect size to make a steak sandwich with my leftover steak.  I didn’t plan it that way, but she was right as it did make for great leftovers. 

Dessert at Ox
I couldn’t come to a place this great and not try the dessert though.  Even though I was much too full, we had to go ahead and share the torte.  The honey chamomile ice cream was the perfect knockout punch.  Along with that crisp honeycomb candy that was a great topping for the soft rich and buttery cake.  On all levels, Ox didn’t just meet my expectations but blew them out of the water.  I still can’t believe a bill for two people was only $160 with tip, I expected it to be so much more.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

In Loving Memory

It's one of the most difficult conversations you can have. Especially when your theology completely differs from the person you're speaking with. Death is a very hard thing to deal with and it is especially hard when you lose your mom's best friend, a friend so close that she becomes your aunt.

The funny thing is I was really at a loss for words. It would be cold and cruel to say that no mom, I don't think that she is in a better place she simply doesn't exist anymore, but such words would be cruel. I think on some level even the most religious people know that the proposition of surviving death is complete bullshit based on reactions to death that are melancholy rather than joyful.

Still atheism hasn't turned me into a cold person completely lacking of humanity, I love my aunt and am very saddened by her somewhat early departure. I also feel a bit of guilt in not working harder at an earlier age to fundamentally change the eating habits of my family so that her life could have been longer.

Still we only have one shot at this. Christopher Hitchens said it best:
"I know what's coming. I know no one beats these odds. And it's a matter of getting used to that and growing up and realizing that you're expelled from your mother's uterus as if shot from a cannon towards a barn door studded with old nail files and rusty hooks. It's a matter of how you use up the intervening time in an intelligent and ironic way ... and try not to do anything ghastly to your fellow creatures."

My aunt may not exist anymore but she does live on in our memories of her and the good things she did for the people around her. She did know how to make those around her feel good. She defied the odds surviving a life threatening gun shot wound. We all succumb to death at some point, but she was a survivor.

 It’s not that hard to cope when I just keep her in my mind.  I will be remembering her by wearing the cologne she loved the scent of more than anything Cool Water By Davidoff.  I will also go ahead and make her favorite cake.  One that she nailed all the time, I wanted to give a little refresh to the classic pineapple upside-down cake recipe by adding in bourbon soaked black cherries as opposed to the typical maraschino that are typically used.  I also wanted to use fresh pineapple.  It’s not quite the same as hers though it is quite tasty.

Knowing that our time on this earth is so brief is what makes every moment so precious and we've only got one chance to make it count. I will look back on all of those time and experiences that we've had together lovingly. She was an amazing person. Whether your beliefs are that she is in perpetual worship of a divine creator or like me you think that her life is just over, you can't  argue with the fact that she lived a good life and will be missed by many. 

everyone who terrifies you is 65% water. and everyone you love is made of stardust, and i know sometimes you can’t even breathe deeply,and the night sky is no home, and you have cried yourself to sleep enough times that you are down to your last two percent, but nothing is infinite, not even loss. you are made of the sea and the stars, and one day you will find yourself again
 -f. butler

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

-1 Fresh Pineapple
-20 or so fresh cherries
-2 ½ Sticks of butter
-1 ½ Cups sugar
-2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-½ teaspoon salt
-½ cup milk
-1/3 Cup Pineapple Juice
-½ Cup Brown Sugar
-3 Eggs
-½ Cup Burbon
-About 15-20 cherries pitted

1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
2. Thinly slice the butter and use it to line the bottom of a 12” well seasoned cast iorn skillet. 
The wet Ingredients should get to about this consistency.
  Sprinkle ¼ cup of the brown sugar on top.
3. Reduce the cherries with ¼ cup of the brown sugar and the bourbon until you are left with a very thick sauce.
4. Arrange about half of the pineapple, cut into slices about a quarter inch thick, along with the cherries in the bottom of a 12” cast iron skillet.
Spread the butter on bottom of the pan before topping
with brown sugar
5. Mix Sugar, about 5/8ths of the pineapple (2 Cups roughly chopped) and a stick and a half of butter in the food processor until you get something about the consistency of apple sauce.  Add in the milk and pineapple juice and mix to combine.
6. In a separate bowl sift together flour and baking powder.
7. Transfer the batter mixture to a bowl and mix in a quarter of the flour mixture followed by an egg until incorporated, alternating between the flour mixture and the eggs until it is all mixed together.
8. Carefully pour on top of the cherries and pineapple.

9. Bake for one hour.  Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before turning out the cake onto a pan.
Arrange pineapple slices and cherries as artistically as

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cookie Cornucopia

So for Christmas, I was invited to a Cookie Party.  I am not a good baker, so rather than baking cookies I opted for making a couple of drinks.  One was Alton Brown's Eggnog, which I made an entire gallon of.  Even though it was very delicious it was a bit excessive.  The other thing I went ahead and made was a Hot Toddy.  My recipe was extremely easy to make and was done in a crock pot overnight.  It was the more popular of the two beverages and was completely gone by the night was over.

The party was a good idea and everyone bought a different type of cookie. This cornucopia of cookies was a child’s dream.  There was even a spot for decorating cookies.  I used my awesome artistic ability to make two cookies that were just a giant glob of yellow.  I did very well if I do say so myself.  We also had  a fun time with a bit of Christmas Karaoke.  It was a brilliant idea.  I had no idea that you could do Karaoke on YouTube.  It makes good sense and you can do karaoke very cheaply using it.
Anyway  here’s the recipe:

Hot Toddy

1 Gallon Apple Juice (I used Simply Apple)
10 3 inch Cinnamon Sticks
4 Star Anise Pods
¼ Cup Sugar
2 Vanilla Beans
250 mL Ameretto
1 Liter Whiskey (I use 750mL Crown Royal and 250mL Southern Comfort, just what I had available)
125 mL Goldshlagger

Combine the first five ingredients in a crock pot.  Slice the vanilla beans in half and scrape the seeds out with a knife before adding the beans and seeds to the mix.
Let the thing go on low overnight.
Just before serving remove the anise, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, and add the booze, serve at your party with the crockpot set to warm.

Here's the Crock pot that I used:
After a pretty fun game of Scategories, we ended up going out for Mexican food.  The location, Los Comales.  The food was actually very straight forward and pretty tasty.  I ended up getting a chicharone (Pork Belly) gordita as well as a Steak Hurrache.  The food there was pretty good and came out pretty fast.  They even had a variety of vegetarian options. It is a good place that I say would deserve a stop if you’re ever in Pilsen.

Happy Holidays.