Saturday, January 27, 2007

If only I had such tricks!

My friend, Laura just had a dream about me.

Pink Parrot

My friend E. discovers a way to attract an extraordinarily rare bright pink parrot. There is only one known specimen of the bird left in the wild. She lures it to perch on her shoulder by placing a hazelnut, a brazilnut, a baby carrot behind her ear. Victory! The parrot perches!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Jewelry shaped like molecules

Just saw this on Boing Boing:

Made With Molecules jewelry: earrings and necklaces with charms in the shape of important chemicals, such as caffeine, estrogen, chocolate, serotonin, GABA... Also available: testosterone boxers and oxytocin baby onesies.


(via Making Light)

Freaking sweet. I want some oxytocin. And dopamine.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Someday This Will Seem Funny

I share a car with my friends Julie and Andrea. It works out great. Mostly.

Julie has been working one day a week in Staten Island, which, turns out is insanely annoying to reach from Brooklyn using public transportation. And I don't use the car in question hardly at all during the week, and then only occasionally on weekends. So, we arranged that she'd use the car during the week. The upside for me is some help on the insurance and maintenance costs as well as some help with moving the car for street cleaning. The upside for her is not having to take three trains to get to the staten island ferry and then board a bus and so on and so on.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I park the car. Julie calls and I tell her where I'd put the car. It's tuesday am, and the street cleaning is on thursday am. But, no worries, Julie needs the car on Thursday, so she'll pick it up on her way home on Wednesday night.

Well, on Thursday Julie phones and she's standing on the street right at the spot where I'd told her the car would be - 4th Ave. and 10th Street -- and it's 1:30 in the afternoon and there is no sign of the car. She sees the street cleaning sign -- which I'd failed to mention since she'd told me she was picking it up on Wednesday -- and assumes the logical explanation: the car has been towed.

I begin searching for the car. It's not in the online index for towed cars. The people at the navy yard tow lot growl at me when I call to ask questions. Following the instructions on the city of New York website, I call my local police precinct. When, after 6 hours, there is no sign of the car, the police instruct me to file a missing car report. I'm totally bummed and stressed out and as I'm leaving my subway station on the way home this horrible, horrible realization slowly descends over me: I didn't leave the car at 4th and 10th. I left it at 3rd. I'd forgotten where I'd parked the car.

Good news, right? Well, almost. I call Julie, and then Andrea, to beg forgiveness and I learn that Julie has had to borrow another friend's car to get to Staten Island. Except, here's the rub, she gets to that car and finds it has a dead battery. So, she flags down a kind motorist for a jump, and drives off to Staten Island where she knows that after a full day of work she will return to the car and find it has no charge in the battery and she'll need to get another jump. I feel awful.

And then, here's the kicker: I get home and the doorbell rings. It's the police. They want to see me about the stolen car?

(God, when I told this story, right after it happened, my friend said 'it'll be something funny to write about in your blog.' But I gotta say, it's still not funny.)

A karmic post-script: exactly one week later,Julie calls and this time the car really has been towed. Somehow, though, I'm totally prepared and the news doesn't even make me wince.

I amble off to the Tow Yard, full of smiles and giggles. I even take pleasure in surprising the ornery tow yard staff with my friendliness and affability. I see how grateful they are when not merely do I forgo yelling or complaining, but I actually *thank* them profusely. I commiserate with one woman about how rundown the infrastructure of their office is and how unjust that is considering what a major player they must be in the economic engine of the city. The guard even compliments my outfit after I ply him with smiles and kind words. My sunny outlook is only brightened by encountering their sullen faces. It's like a challenge. I'm so up for it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Passing of the Ramen Master

Momofuku Ando has died.

He leaves behind a legacy of grateful college students. He was the creator of Nissin's Ramen Noodles.

A few years back, I spent my birthday at the Ramen museum in Shin-Yokohama, Japan. A spectacular place which chronicles the glory days of the wartime noodle shop. A weird having a soup kitchen museum from the glory days of the depression. And I had a real scare there: I thought I'd accidentally eaten horse. That's right: horse. You see, you order your meals from vending machines -- they give out little tickets with conji characters on them and you hand that ticket to the noodle-master. It was only after rolling the dice and picking a button to push (i don't read or speak any japanese) that I found the english translation. What was in my bowl was described as "wheat noodles with pork, chicken, fish cake, egg, seaweed, horse, mackerel, and mushrooms". Only later did I figure out that it was probably 'horse mackerel' not 'horse' and 'mackerel.' This whole thing went down in the context of my brand-new return to carnivorism. Avoiding meat while traveling in Japan seemed too daunting and I finally had to give in to the fact: meat tastes good.

Anyhow, Momofuko Ando was the man to dehydrate those noodles and invent pre-packaged ramen. Genuis.

Ramen Shop Radio, of course, is my nom de radio. Named not so much for the pre-packaged kind as the shop where one can find the hearty bowl, variously populated with meats, veggies, and the aspirations of a chef and connosieur. My radio operation was to be my own Tampopo story, I thought.

Momofuko Ando, I believe, thought that a realiable stovetop version would be even better than the neighborhood noodle counter. I disagree. But I respect the dedication and productivity of such an industrious industrial mind.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Mission: Bouillabaisse

At the last minute, Charles and I decided to have a New Year's party. And I decided to make Bouillabaisse. You know, bounty of the sea in a pot? It’s ambitious, sure, but I like a challenge. Oh wait, did I mention that I had 20 people at my house for New Years’? (See previous sentence about appreciating difficulty.) Besides, I needed some help kicking 2006 into a bloody pulp and how better than to serve something so decadent and yet simple. Besides, there is something practically re-incarnating about seafood. Something about eating food native to that chaotic premordial global amniotic fluid: the ocean. It's resorative.

First step: call Travis. Travis is my partner in BBQ-NYC and when he’s not riding me about how many paper plates I’ve purchased he’s working as a fishmonger at Central Market in Austin, Texas. Travis sketched out a plan for me. It had a few parts. And all the parts had parts. But, here goes, I will attempt to recount them.

Basic Ingredients
7 lb red snapper bones
3 lbs tilapia
2 lbs cod
2 lbs flounder
1 dozen little neck clams
4 lbs mussels
1 lbs baby octopus
2 lbs red potatoes
3 lbs carrots
2 lbs yellow onion
1 fennel bulb
1 head of celery
3 red peppers

Step One. Fish Stock

What every good fish stock needs? Fresh veggies and fish heads. Check and check.

Charles and I had made a b-line to Fairway for 7 lbs of fish bones. We went with the Red Snapper bones…yes, for this venture I checked my marine-conscience at the door. Or, quite nearly. I didn’t abandon all responsibility to the sea, but compromises were made.

First things first: mirepoix. Generally, a mirepoix is 2 parts onion, 1 parts celery and 1 part carrot, sautéed in butter. My twist: 2 parts onion, 1 part carrot, 1 part celery AND 1 part fennel.

(Note: this step is not without pain.)


I cooked the mirepoix until it was soft and aromatic,

I added the bones, then some leek greens, parsley stems, an entire garlic bulb, a teaspoon of Mexican saffron threads (fragrant and fine on the budget) , and 3 gallons of water.

From there, it took almost a half hour to get up to a rolling boiling
and from there it was about an hour of skimming grey and white foamy waste bits from the top. Then, I carefully strained the broth through a cheesecloth-lined colander.

It yielded about 3 gallons of very delicate and lovely broth. I cooled it and placed the broth in plastic bags and placed them in the freezer.

Next day. Party time.

I boiled a couple of pounds of red potatoes.

Meanwhile, I sautéed carrots, leeks, and peppers in butter. When just gently softened, I added the potatoes and the frozen stock. While the liquid slowly, slowly comes up to a simmer, you’ve got time to enjoy the party a little. Mingle. Have some champagne. Try a little of the fondue. (Charles made a most excellent chipotle fondue.)

More champagne, sure! Don’t mind if I do! Oh yes, and you might want to wash and chop up all the white fish. Scrub the shellfish. Have another glass of Cava, why don’t you?

Ok, now that the pot is up to a simmer, throw in the fish. A full boil? Great, toss in the shellfish and octopus, close the lid, and wait for the clams to open. Have another glass of champagne. (Oh how I wish I’d not forgotten entirely to take photos of this conclusion of my bouillabaisse! The baby octopus curled up in such a lovely way – they were delicious. And I forgot to add the cooking wine…and the fresh parsley...and the...oh well.)

And when the clams opened, dinner was served. Served with no-knead bread, of course. And it was delicious. Let’s hope it ushers in a better year. For the most part, 2006 was a catastrophe. Good riddance. I've got a feeling that 007 will be much better to me.