Monday, January 19, 2009

Comfort Food

Saturday evening was our 2nd Christmas. No, this is not a new holiday persay, but we pulled names on my husband's side of the family and we didn't all spend Christmas together so some people (myself included) didn't get their gift.

No big deal to me, but Trevor's mom pulled together a really nice meal (with Devin also cooking) and it was a nice excuse to get together. If not for holidays I don't know when I'd see some of Trevor's extended family members. People are busy. Life happens, but it's nice to see one another.

I made a pecan crusted pumpkin pie, an eclair cake, green tea ice cream and cranberry muffins. I did not bring the muffins; I simply wanted something to munch on in the mornings and my oven was already hot from baking. Pumpkin pie is something I have a love hate relationship with. I love the fragrant spices. I love the velvety texture of custard pies, but something about pumpkin pie is a little too mushy so I can't commit to eating a whole pie by myself. You might ask why I would ever eat a whole pie by myself but Trevor doesn't like sweets that much and if I made a pie I'd honestly have to eat the whole thing. So to offset the mush-factor I added pecans on top to add some crunch. I've seen recipes where they add crushed almonds right into the crust to add depth of flavor and texture, but I didn't have enough almonds for such an experiment. Perhaps another time.

Eclair cake was more Trevor's vote. I mentioned it in passing and he thought I should make it. It's pretty much a gigantic cream puff where you spread your dough out into a cake pan instead of making individual puffs. So it forms a gigantic puff and you push it down and spread your vanilla cream filling on top. I had enough dough for two gigantic puffs so I sandwiched my vanilla cream (which I added cream cheese into to make it sturdy instead of runny) and then drizzled chocolate sauce and whipped topping on.

It wasn't as pretty as I thought it would be, but it more or less created a big eclair.
I think individual cream puffs are better, but in terms of ease this was quite straightforward. And assembling it at the last minute right before serving was way easier than filling each and every puff at the last minute. I really need to work on my pastry bag skills because I'm sure THAT would make it faster but I always make a huge mess.

And I like talking to my mother-in-law. She's always busy so I don't see her that often but I think it's nice to have someone other than my own mother to speak to. My own mother is highly opinionated, constantly overfeeds me and talks to me about new recipes but let's face the fact that that's what I've grown to become. lol So it's nice to have another female figure to chat with.

I had today off from work for the first time in...forever? I've never had Martin Luther King Jr. Day off outside of school. Obviously when you're in school you have pretty much every holiday off. But due to Christmas falling on a weekend anyway this year they gave us MLK day so over the course of the year we'd have an equivalent number of paid days off as we have in past years. I spent the day having a long lunch with my husband at a Japanese Noodle place in Hartford called Tanuki Noodle. It was nice. I wasn't crazy about their pork, which was definitely not roasted (which it traditionally is) and it wasn't freshly boiled either because it didn't have the right bite or aroma, but everything else was good. Next time I might ask them to sub out their pork with something else but the noodles and the soup were yummy. And they even had plastic food in the front entrance like they have in Japan. None of the servers were Asian which threw me off a bit, but I guess they're going for a different modern, upscale vibe.

In any case I think it was nice and it'd be good to go back and try the few other dishes they have. The entire menu is one page front and back and most of it involves the option of adding extra meat, noodles or whatever for a few bucks more. I had the Kimchi ramen and it was mighty tasty if you like kim chi, which I totally do. Coincidentally my mom made some home-made kim chi and later gave me a small jar to eat shortly thereafter, as though to fully satiate my hunger for spicy pungent pickled cabbage. Trevor is not a fan and instead had the miso ramen. Ramen of course not being equivalent to what we think of as "cup o'noodles" fare. This ramen is the grandfather of ramen; before ramen came in little styrofoam cups ramen was legitamate home made thin noodles in an aromatic soup base. And in the same way that some Chef Boyardee could never beat a real bowl of authentic pasta with aromatic tomato sauce and basil, the same is true of ramen.

Real honest to goodness ramen is a Chinese invention, but as anyone who knows Trevor knows, the man is obsessed with all things Japanese so naturally we had to have Japanese ramen. Even though he's quite un-Japanese, his comfort food is Japanese food. It could be worse; most people tend to run for really unhealthy comfort food like mac & cheese, or fried chicken, or an entire gallon of ice cream. Predictably my comfort food is Vietnamese food. Nothing in particular; but if it has some nuoc mam pha on it I tend to enjoy it. Ironically Trevor can't stand the smell of it and I typically eat it all alone or at my parents house so he doesn't make his stinky face at me.

Monday, January 12, 2009

If "sweet" is in the name it's like dessert, right?

Thinks it was a bad idea to eat 3 square pieces of pizza...and then 2 roasted WHOLE sweet potatoes.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I hop, you hop, we hop

We are now feeling out the local food establishments. You'd think that having lived here for most of the years of my life I'd know the good places to eat, but you would be mistaken. My parents never ordered take out and my mother always fed me so full I never really felt any desire to branch out and spend money for food. My knowledge of convenience food is pretty limited. But this town is overrun with pizza places. What I wouldn't give for some spicy Thai drunken noodles, but the choices that are available appear to be A.) Pizza B.) Pizza related Italian food C.) Sandwiches D.) Chinese food E.) Indian food F.) Sushi

Thriving metropolis we are not. Although I very much enjoy my house with my garage and quiet street I am mildly jealous of the sprawling food selection in NYC. While we were visiting Tyler we had Malaysian food and then Japanese Ramen Noodles they refer to it as ramen but it's totally are not like that Top Ramen stuff you add water to when you only have $1 to feed yourself. It's more like hardy noodle soup with pork and egg and mushrooms floating around in it.

Our favorite sushi place is right in town and we've found a pizza place we enjoy and the Indian place two streets away isn't shabby but otherwise we must travel elsewhere to fill our cravings. My favorite Indian place is The Garden in Agawam. I think their naan is better than Taste of India and when you want it really spicy it physically hurts me a little bit. Just a little...but I like it. Spicy at Taste of India barely tingles my palette but it's not bad. It's still very rich and creamy curry. The problem is that I found a recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala and now I think mine is awesome and it seems like shame to order it in the outside world.

I have a confession to make. Today was the first time I have ever had food from IHOP. It wasn't bad. I can't complain too much; it was better than most breakfasts I've had at Dennys. I had the pumpkin pancakes and was happy with the mild but fragrant flavor of pumpkin spices. I didn't so much taste actual pumpkin but the nutmeg and cinnamon were there. I don't really like pumpkin pie that much but I just like the novelty of seasonal flavors. One cannot survive off plain maple syrup alone. I like having a few fun things to choose from and seasonal stuff typically satisfies my curiosity. I think I'd rather have brunch at the Mill on the River anyday but you can't always be a food snob and eat Eggs Benedict with mimosas.

They had an all you can eat pancakes special too, but to be honest all the pancakes I can eat are like...4...perhaps 6 if the syrup is good and there's whipped cream. It's not really a spectacular gastronomical show. I admit that at this rate I will never win the world record for pancake eating, but at just $4.95 plus tax and tip that if I were a starving college student nursing a wild hangover that it would definitely hit the spot.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

It happens in 3's

I'd like to start by saying I am cursed but on the bright side, if you believe that bad things happen in 3's then I am all set for a long time.

The short story is my dad accidentally hit my car while trying to do a K-turn out of our driveway during a snowstorm. He felt awful. It's all cosmetic. I'm actually really complacent about the whole thing because I figure that I've cared so much up to this point and it's done nothing but make me feel awful. Plus the moment I get my car fixed I'm 94.79% sure that it'll just get hit again. That's just how my luck's been. And really, it's just a car. The fact of the matter is that it's not anything special. It's not a person whom I care about. It's not even in a color I like. So really, why continue thinking about it?

Back to life.

I got together with the girls (plus Trevor and Vinnie) for New Year's Eve. A.) We needed to exchange gifts still from the holiday and B.) I didn't really want to be a loser with no plans for NYE and who better to spend my time with than some of my favorite people? Especially since they wanted to stay local.

We went to Union Street Tavern in town. It's...okay. The food was so-so. It was not epically disgusting and poisonous. (How's that for being slightly nicer than usual in '09, huh?) If we went to like TGIFridays I actually feel like the food would have been better. We had off and on service from our waitress who clearly could have worked on her social skills. Although to her credit we were a handful and I'm not sure how well I'd handle joking comments from customers either. But really, how can you miss a table where everyone is flailing their arms trying to flag you down? Literally 12 arms flailing around. Not just one arm being annoying but the whole table. I swear she was purposefully trying to ignore us. In short, don't go to there to eat actual food and expect it to be amazing but if you just want a few beverages from the bar you won't be overwhelmingly disappointed at their ability to pour beer.

I'm totally awesome at this "being nice" thing so far.

Alexis & Amanda are going on a school sponsored trip to Egypt so they were very excited about it coming up. I pulled Alexis's name for our gift exchange so I got her a little travel bag with TSA acceptable toiletry items from Victoria's Secret and then after feeling like it might be too small of a gift added a small bottle of perfume and a full size tube of mascara. I got a gift certificate to a local restaurant from Amanda who admitted she ran out of creative juices but knew I'd at least appreciate being able to eat out. Does she know me, or what? Kim got Amanda a (not totally authentic) wedding ring set because she had mentioned that it was recommended to have a wedding band on while in Egypt to avoid being harassed by overzealous locals. But it was really pretty and fit perfectly. Alexis got Kim a few different little things like a coffee mug and cup with mix. I remember it was a large bag and the mug had reindeer antlers in it made of cookies.

It had snowed earlier that day so not wanting anyone to travel too far had them come over to our home and ring in the New Year within the confines of a safe local place where everyone was welcome to crash if need be. Many awful unflattering pictures were taken and many ridiculous jokes were made but everyone got home safe and I don't think they experienced any hangovers.

Today we just got back from being in NYC to visit our friend Tyler for his birthday. It was quite a drive into and out of the city which I'd rather not do again but perhaps I'm excruciatingly sensitive because of my recent car...issues. Usually I take the train because I refuse to drive myself and risk A.) getting lost B.) paying for parking. It is too much stress to drive around and around in a place you're unfamiliar with but Trevor is much more gung ho than I am and we drove. Also, if you want to take the train you really need to schedule it way in advance and know the times. Fiscally speaking it was cheaper for the two of us to drive and just pay for gas and parking than to buy a pair of tickets on the train and then buy tickets for the subway...so that's what we did. Plus I was not forced to drive or else we'd likely still be in NYC because I drive very very very cautiously now. Old ladies have nothing on me.

Ty was really nice and let us crash at his place which was really nice for a NYC apartment. I was quite jealous of his granite countertops and kitchen cabinetry that closed all the way. But it was a good time; his friends were very kind. I couldn't sleep to save my life even though I was tired. All the other times I've crashed in NYC at Emily's it was the dead of summer and the AC was blasting so I didn't notice any noise at all over the white noise of the rumbling machine. I'm just glad it wasn't snowing because I don't know if I could tolerate the stress of the city plus the toil of sliding around in the snow.

It was an...interesting night. One of Tyler's friends got kicked out of the bar we were at because she kind of started an altercation with a bouncer and then everyone inside was left trying to figure out where the heck she put her coat. In the meantime the poor dear is outside freezing with NO COAT. I'm sure she was three sheets to the wind but it was honestly freezing cold outside, it must have been at least 30 degrees out. I had jeans, boots, a turtleneck and a wool peacoat on outside and I was still shivering.

Other than that I really felt old. Not because I was surrounded by annoying young 21 year olds; in fact I was likely among the youngest people there, but because I felt very un-party-like. I am increasingly lame as I get older. Example A.) I wear turtlenecks. What hip young socialite would ever wear a turtleneck, let alone to a bar? I might as well bust out my sweatervest and pocket protector while I'm at it. Then start conversations about long division. Also the bar was very hip. Hip in a way that CT bars are not. This bar's theme was 70's pornography playing on the tvs. As though to say "we're cool...we're sexy...and hairy 70's pornography is artistic and so retro."

Tyler seemed to have fun at his big b'day bash. Unfortunately he was already sick before-hand so I'm sure starting off the evening with cold medicine didn't really mix too well with all the alcoholic beverages that were purchased for him. He looked miserable the next morning but after filling him with food and ginger ale he looked slightly less green around the gills by the time we left. Poor guy. We'll have to visit him again under healthier circumstances. I'll bring more cookies.