Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Monday, September 22, 2014

SEPTEMBER GUILD EVENT

The Guild takes us to the sunny climes of the Mediterranean with this evening’s Spanish-themed wine event at Eclipse di Luna.

With the exception of a single red blend from Argentina, all of this tasting’s wines are from Sunny España. And given that my knowledge of Spanish wines is pretty much confined to the basics of Rioja and sherry, to me this looks like a fine opportunity for a little education. Plus... how can one refuse tasty Spanish food, served on an “all you care to eat” basis?

Here’s the bill of fare...

Reception
2011 Agro de Bazán Granbazán Albariño Etiqueta Ambar, Rias Baixas, Galicia, Spain

Gambas al Ajillo - Sautéed shrimp with garlic and Calabrese peppers
Ostiones Fritos - Fried Chesapeake oysters with a citrus herb aioli

First Flight
2010 Bodegas Palacios Remondo La Montesa (75% Garnacha, 20% Tempranillo, 5% Mazuelo) Rioja, Spain

Ensalada de Manzána - Arugula, radicchio, Granny Smith apples, candied walnuts and Manchego cheese with apple cider walnut dressing
Calamares Fritos - Lightly fried calamari with pico de gallo

Second Flight
2008 Bodegas y Vinedos O. Fournier Bcrux (60% Tempranillo, 30% Malbec, 10% Merlot) Mendoza, Argentina
2005 Bodega Hacienda Lopez de Haro Reserva (90% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano, 5% Garnacha Rioja), Spain

Salmon a la Parilla - Grilled salmon, smoked piquillo pepper relish and kalamata tapanade

Third Flight
2010 Bodegas Volver Tarima Hill (100% Monastrell) Alicante, Spain
2011 Vinessens Sein (60% old vine Monastrell (60 yr old), 40% young Syrah) Alicante, Spain
2012 Castaño Solanera (70% Monastrell, 15% Cabernet, 15% Garnacha) Yecla, Spain

Costillas Españolas - Spanish-style ribs and aged balsamic vinaigrette
Patatas Bravas - Spiced potatoes with romesco sauce

Fourth Flight
2012 Tintonegro Malbec Limestone Block, Mendoza, Argentina
2005 Alion Alion, Ribera Del Duero, Castilla Leon, Spain
or
1998 Muga Torre Muga, Rioja, Spain
2004 La Rioja Alta Reserva Viña Ardanza (80% Tempanillo, 20% Garnacha Rioja), Spain

Carne a la Parilla - Grilled hanger steak, roasted tomatillo sauce and cucumber salad

Dessert
2006 Alvear Fino En Rama (100% Pedro Ximenez) Montilla Moriles, Andalucia, Spain

Per my usual practice, I’ll post an update with my post-drinkem commentary.

Friday, September 19, 2014

WHAT, AGAIN?



Yes, it’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Again.

So: What arrrh you going to do about it?

Have a parrrhty?

Wear a carrrhstume?

Or just ignarrrh the whole fucking thing?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

COCKTAIL DU JOUR

Widow's Kiss Cocktail
Widow’s Kiss Cocktail.

There’s nothing that will bring you bliss
Like the sweet, sultry savor of a Widow’s Kiss.
It tastes of herbs and apples and mystery,
And if you have one or two, it will set you free.

This seductive little marvel uses Calvados, the delicate apple brandy of Normandy, as its base. It is a bit on the sweet side thanks to a dose of Bénédictine, and deliciously floral as well, owing to the presence of Chartreuse. (The traditional recipe calls for yellow Chartreuse, but since I have only the green variety, that’s the one I use. It makes for an extra powerful cocktail.) Here’s how to make one:

1½ oz Calvados (Laird’s bonded apple brandy or applejack can be used in a pinch)
¾ oz yellow Chartreuse (Green Chartreuse works just fine)
¾ oz Bénédictine
4 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Stir well and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. Drink carefully... didn’t I say it was powerful?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

STRANGE PLATEFELLOWS

Tai Kimuchi

Tai kimuchi - dried red snapper cured in soy and chile pepper - and an Aviation. Don’t judge.

I made the cocktail with Nolet’s gin and Meyer lemon - a real high flyer. The perfect apéritif for a dinner consisting of leftover gumbo.

NO NEED TO GET COCKY

We’re not necessarily the sort of people you would consider early adopters.

We’re not the first in line to buy the latest technological gimcrack or gewgaw. (The iPhone 6 will probably have to wait.) And yet we are not complete Luddite dinosaurs. Viz:



Yes, this is a real product. And today, for the first time, I tried it... and it worked. It worked most effectively, living up to its (refreshingly candid) advertising.

Now there’s no need to get cocky... or at least to get cocky-aroma in the old nostrils.

It’s a refreshing surprise to find a product that does what it claims to do... and even more surprising, to find its place in the market despite never being advertised on television - to my knowledge, anyway. Social media seem to be doing the heavy lifting, along with Internet-based sales and distribution - a real 21st century business model.

Why, it’s the best thing since sliced loaf bread!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

CHARLIE

The TeeVee was playing in the den as I was fixing supper this evening, and I heard an ad that summoned up a bittersweet memory. It was for a tobacco cessation drug.

Chantix... helps reduce the urge to smoke.

I remember when I was visiting Eli, hizzownself, back in early January. He was still with us then, but it was evident - especially in retrospect - that he was nearing the end of his rope. He was just... tired.

His cognitive abilities were starting to slip. He would ask to be taken back to his room, forgetting that he already was in his room. And yet he could still be sharp as a tack.

We were watching the TV in his room and an advertisement for Chantix came on, along with the familiar tagline: “Chantix... helps reduce the urge to smoke.”

And apropos of pretty much nothing, I said, “Charlie Chantix...”

Eli responded immediately. “Helps reduce the urge to solve mysteries.

It was a flash of lightning amidst the thickening fog, but it was a flash nonetheless... and Dee and I were there to bear witness.

I miss you, Dad.

POLO MATCH

The other day, one of Dee’s students presented her with an edible gift.

Eschewing long-standing traditions, said student did not bring the usual apple for the teacher. Instead, she fell back on her own family heritage with a Foodly Offering of zereshk polo.

Zereshk polo? WTF izzat?” I can hear you asking. It’s a reasonable question, unless you spend time hanging out with people of Persian extraction. It is nothing more or less than a rice pilaf (pilaf, polo, and pullao being linguistic and culinary relatives) with a liberal dose of sweet-sour zereshk (barberries), along with saffron to provide a subtle flavor counterpoint.

Zereshk Polo
Zereshk polo, fresh from the Polo Grounds. Yum.

What elevates a Persian-style polo above its ricey cousins is the marvelous caramelized crust that forms on the bottom of the pan as it cooks. When the polo is ready to be served forth, the pan is inverted onto the plate so that that crust - the precious tahdig - sits on top of the pile of polo. The considerate host will ensure that everyone gets his or her share of tahdig by hacking it into manageable portion-size chunks.

On a somewhat unrelated note, Dee and I had been watching a show on the Food Network the previous evening, the one in which Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri take turns mugging for the camera while coaching teams of skillet-wielding toddlers. When one of said toddlers prepared a smoked chicken gumbo using red bell peppers in lieu of green, it struck me as unusual: Green peppers are one of the traditional components of the “trinity,” the Cajun-Creole mirepoix that forms the base of all good gumbeaux. (If that’s not how you spell the plural of “gumbo,” it oughta be.)

Neither of us are big fans of green peppers, gumbo being one of the few dishes in which we use them (the other is gazpacho) - so right then and there I resolved to try making a gumbo with red peppers. Said gumbo, crammed with chicken Andouille sausage, turned out to be similar in flavor to the conventional version but far more colorful. Even better, it was a fine accompaniment to my little plate of zereshk polo at lunch the following day.

Red Pepper Gumbo
Andouille sausage gumbo with red bell peppers. When your Polo Match is gumbo versus polo, everybody wins!

In case you’re curious, I did not put the polo in the gumbo. That’d be a no-no.

Monday, September 8, 2014

ON CHICKEN’S WINGS

O, they’re eating chicken in Heaven,
In the clouds where the seraphim sing.
Yes, they’re eating chicken in Heaven,
(Mister Angel, please pass those wings.)
Yes, they’re eating chicken in Heaven,
For what else can I say?
The Founding Father of Chick-fil-A
Has gone and passed away,
Has gone and passed away.

The benevolent S. Truett Cathy
Has earned his Eternal Rest
After a lifetime of selling
The wing, the thigh, and the breast.
The chickens all cluck, “Hallelujah!”
For their nemesis has done and passed;
They all say, “We hope he’s cremated -
Let him taste that hot oven blast - O, yes -
Let him taste that hot oven blast!”

O, they’re eating chicken in Heaven,
In the clouds where the seraphim sing.
Yes, they’re eating chicken in Heaven,
How angelic, the taste of those wings!
Yes, they’re eating chicken in Heaven,
Where the good people go when they die,
Where they say, “Jesus saves, and Moses invests,
And Mister Cathy? He fries, he fries -
And Mister Cathy, he fries!”

[S. Truett Cathy, founder of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain, passed away today at age 93. “And He will raise you up on chicken’s wings...”]

UNDER ALIEN SKIES

Yesterday evening, Dee and I were watching yet another show on the Food Network. (When we’re not watching shows about foods we can’t bother to cook on the Food Network, we’re watching shows about real estate we can’t afford on HGTV.)

I’m not sure what made her look towards the sunroom - possibly Stella taking an unauthorized walk on the dining room table - but the strange light pouring through the windows immediately grabbed her attention. “Take a look at that,” she said.

The skies were a bizarre yellow-orange, more what you would expect to see on Krypton or Mars. The yellow light that illuminated the sunroom was not the hue of a normal sunset; it felt strange and alien, vaguely threatening despite not being the eerie dark-green of a tornado sky.

I went out the front door, camera in hand, to see what I could see... and here is what greeted me:  
 
Orange Sky 3
View towards the northwest.

Orange Sky 2
View towards the southeast. Where General Zod at?

Towering storm clouds boiled in the distance, lit from behind by a sun angry at having to go to bed early. It reminded me of nothing so much as “A Feasibility Study,” an old Outer Limits episode in which a six-block chunk of suburbia gets teleported to a distant planet: It looked almost as though that same fate had befallen our neighborhood.

But no. No repulsive aliens waited to enslave us, no annoying electrical hum met our ears... just a couple walking their dog and looking completely unconcerned at the strange orange-yellow sky. Just another late summer day in Marietta.

So I went in and fixed myself a drink... ’cause I’m the guy who put the Bar in Barsoom.

Friday, September 5, 2014

REAMED, STEAMED, AND DRY-CLEANED

That’s how I feel after this morning’s, errr, ahhh, procedure.

It’s the kind of thing Old Guys like me should have done every five to ten years... and the kind of thing that probably would have inspired a frenzy of Crap-Blogging a decade ago, back when the world was new and we cared about such fecal matters. But I just don’t have it in me anymore.

Literally.

Crap-Blogging was once a thing, but for better or worse it is the sort of thing that does not seem to work on Facebook, where the audience is not a random bunch of internet geeks but rather a circle of friends, family, and acquaintances. It all seems like Too Much Information.

And even here on the bloggy side of things, you’re safe. I do not plan to post photographs, though I do have them... and they are fascinating in a perverse sort of way. (How often do you get to have a glimpse of your own living, glistening innards?)

To close, a brief Poetic Reflection on the day’s events:

The very idea, why it’s just nuts -
To have a tube shoved up your guts
Therewith for to inspect the Colon
And thus ensure there’s nothing growin’.
The preparation is no damn fun:
“Excuse me, but I’ve got to run!”
But give me a dose of Propofol,
And whatever you do, I won’t care at all.

Friday, August 29, 2014

’TIS THE SEASON

The Penitential Season, that is, which got kicked off Wednesday as the month of Elul began.

That means that only one month remains before the Jewish New Year rolls in, to be followed by Yom Kippur. Those are holidays marked by a certain degree of sober introspection, for this is the time when we traditionally take stock of our lives and try to turn towards the paths of righteousness.

During Elul, morning services conclude with the sounding of the Shofar, the ancient ram’s-horn trumpet that serves as both a warning and a call to action: a spiritual alarm clock of sorts. And we recite Psalm 27, the special psalm for the penitential days, from now until Hoshana Rabah in the latter part of next month.

Psalm 27 has always resonated with me, but this year it hits especially close to home with this verse in particular:

Ki avi v’imi azavuni va-HaShem ya-asfeini - Though my father and mother leave me, the Lord will care for me.

This is the first New Year I will be facing as an orphan: My father and mother have now both left me. It is a sobering realization... and yet it is the way of the world.

As for me, I have plenty of sober introspection of my own to face. I suspect most of us do as well. The Human Condition, they call it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

THE CHEESE AISLE DICTIONARY, Vol. 21

Stuff that should be in the dictionary but isn’t.

Long-time readers of my previous site may recall the Blog d’Elisson Dictionary, installments of which may be found in that site’s Archives. For other entries in the Cheese Aisle Dictionary, simply click on the sidebar link for Cheese-Dic.

And now, the Expression of the Day:

Santayana Claustrophobia [san-ta-yan-a claws-tro-fo-bi-a] (n) - The fear of learning from history.

The phrase is a mash-up of Santayana (George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”) and claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed spaces.

“When I see what’s going on in Europe these days, it’s just like before World War II broke out. Those people must be suffering from a collective case of Santayana Claustrophobia!”

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

JUSTICE, DELAYED BUT NOT DENIED

Sometimes the wheels of Justice grind slowly, but grind they do... and most of us hope never to get caught up in them. Herewith, a story...

It was June of 2013, and we were in Philadelphia to attend Elder Daughter’s graduation from clown school the Pig Iron School of Advanced Performance Training. We had an opportunity to see an extraordinary group of actors demonstrate their craft in various performance pieces, and a graduation ceremony that managed to be both touching and amusing, a ceremony that was entirely fitting for this, Pig Iron’s very first APT class.

At the time, the Missus was suffering from a torn ligament and associated tendinopathy, a Footly Condition that made it extremely difficult and painful to walk. Consequently, she applied for - and received - a temporary handicapped placard from Cobb County, Georgia that enabled her to use designated handicapped parking places.

Parking Placard

But apparently, some of the beat patrollers in Philly never got the memo, because on our final morning there, after having parked in a streetside handicapped parking place, we returned to our car to find a parking ticket on the windshield. The officer who issued the ticket noted that our placard (which was mounted correctly on the rear-view mirror) had been issued in Georgia but that the car we were in - the Mistress of Sarcasm’s ride - was registered in Connecticut. This, at least in his mind, was evidence that we had not only parked illegally in a handicapped space, but that we had done so fraudulently. Fraudulently, by Gawd!

The ticket was for a jaw-dropping $1001. Yes, you read that correctly: It was a thousand-dollar parking ticket.

Great Googly Moogly! I had thought, until then, that the only way to get a thousand-dollar parking ticket was to park at a kindergarten... on top of all the children.

Needless to say, with that much cabbage on the line, we were not about to “pay the two dollars.” Instead, we filed an appeal online with the City of Philadelphia. After all, isn’t portability the whole point of having a portable handicapped parking placard?

After waiting about seven weeks, we received a polite letter informing us that the charge had been dismissed. Justice had been served.

And the timing was exquisite.

The morning of the letter’s arrival, the day’s Torah reading had included the immortal verse from the Book of Deuteronomy, “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof: Justice, justice shalt thou pursue.”

Yesterday, the cycle of our annual Torah readings brought that selfsame verse around once more, reminding me of this story of Justice, Delayed but not Denied. And so, Esteemed Reader, I share it with you.

Monday, August 25, 2014

AUGUST GUILD EVENT

This evening’s Guild event will be held at Saltyard, a tapas and small plates place just north of the Brookwood Interchange on Peachtree. The theme - such as it is - is “Floral, Herbal, and Sweet,” which are flavors I can get by mixing myself an Aviation cocktail with Nolet’s gin, but which can also be teased out by the appropriate wines and accompanying dishes. For my part, it gives me an opportunity to try a restaurant I’ve never even heard of before.

Here’s what’s on the menu:

Reception
NV Manuel Janisson & Roland de Bruyne Kirkland Champagne Rosé**

First Flight
2013 Bevan Dry Stack Sauvignon Blanc*
2012 Quintessa Illumination Sauvignon Blanc**
Lime and cilantro grouper ceviche, wonton chips
Smoked salmon chips, lemon-dill mascarpone
Crispy oysters, lemon-dill aioli 

Second Flight
2012 Michel Gassier Cercius Blanc*
2009 Pegasus Bay Chardonnay***
Seared diver scallop, creamy polenta, red curry butter, mâche leaves

Third Flight
2010 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir*
2012 Melville Estate Pinot Noir***
Roasted mushroom, caramelized fennel risotto, fines herbes, arugula pistou

Fourth Flight
2011 Highland Estates Merlot Grand Reserve**
2010 Catena Zapata Cabernet Sauvignon***
Braised pork cheeks, herbed whipped potatoes, glazed carrots, jus

Dessert
2003 Château La Gravière Tirecul Monbazillac***
Crème brûlée, blackberries

Lagniappe
2003 W. H. Smith Pinot Noir****
1996 Domaine Cady Cuvée Volupté Coteaux du Layon Saint Albin**
2003 Mitolo Reiver Shiraz - Barossa Valley***

Will Houston Steve be there? Alas, not this time. Nevertheless, I’ll follow my usual procedure and post my impressions in an after-event update.

Update: A few really nice wines, especially as the evening progressed and we moved into the reds. As for the food, great appetizers, fine dessert, and toothsome pork cheeks... and a totally forgettable risotto. The star was the seared diver scallop dish, served with a bright red curry butter that somehow magically worked perfectly with the Pegasus Bay chardonnay. I could have eaten a bathtub full of those bad boys.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

FROM THE ELISSON ARCHIVE: PHYSICS AS ART

Bouncing Ball
Parabolic ping-pong. The bouncing ball traces graceful parabolae in its flight.

This photograph - the original was a black-and-white Polaroid - was taken by illuminating a bouncing ping-pong ball with a strobe light. The bouncing ball describes a series of parabolae of decreasing height: physics as art.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

ANOTHER DON, GONE*

Don Pardo
Don Pardo, 1918-2014. Requiescat in pace.

His voice was strong until the last,
But now Don Pardo’s onward passed.
When he arrives at Heaven’s shelf,
Saint Pete will say, “Announce yourself!”

Don Pardo, whose voice was familiar to millions as the announcer for Saturday Night Live for all but a single season since 1975, has died at the age of 96.

To be perfectly honest, I had absolutely no idea that Mr. Pardo was anywhere near that old. His larynx betrayed nary a hint of his advancing years, not even a quaver.

I wonder what it must have been like for him to go about his everyday life - supermarkets, restaurants, et al. - and being the recipient of numerous Quizzical Looks ’n’ Comments: “You sound like someone I know!”

Ave atque vale, Don Pardo. You were a “Pardo-v” our lives for so long, and we will miss your unique voice.

[*The title is a subtle allusion to an old - and completely unrelated - post.]

Monday, August 18, 2014

RUFF STUFF

Ruff Stuff
Stella displays her Ruff Stuff.

I never ever get enough
Of Stella-Kitty and her rough

When Stella-Kitty struts her stough
Don’t dare to give her any gough

In winter, she could be a mough
And keep you warm with all her flough