Thursday, February 28, 2008

Monday Heartbreak

Monday always seems like the perfect day to enjoy Brooklyn unadulterated by the weekend crowds. But, for those of us who have Mondays off, Brooklyn usually turns out to be a real heart breaker. This past Monday I woke up and decided to grab breakfast at a local restaurant, Cheryl's, only to find that it is closed on Mondays. Not a problem, I assured myself, I'll just grab some tasty coffee and a Ham & Cheese Croissant at Joyce Bakeshop. Wrong! Joyce is also closed on Monday. I don't know how many times I have to go threw this very process until I learn my lesson: almost half of Brooklyn is CLOSED ON MONDAYS. It appears that we may now add The Chocolate Room to the long list of my Monday heartbreaks.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Some Quality Time With a Neglected Love One

As of late, I have been finding every reason possible not to step into the kitchen. One reason is that I am actively searching for both, a good Thai Food restaurant in Brooklyn, and some good BYOB spots .Another reason is that, though I have never before had a problem cooking unaccompanied, in the last few months, cooking alone has become a terribly isolating experience. I have been having the urge to collaborate in the kitchen and have yet to find a remedy for this, seeing as most of my friends don't enjoy cooking. Another more concrete reason for not wanting to cook is that my apartment has recently been invaded by a gang of mice who have found their way into my grains, sugar, and anything else unprotected, then popped all over every inch of my kitchen.

Between the exterminator and our recent house guest,
the mice have decided to take their vandalous show on the road. Still, the entire thing has turned me off to the idea of cooking and my kitchen has been left unattended, aside from morning coffee and my roommate's version of cooking which includes boiling vegetables and heating up boxed soup.

It's sad, I know. I'm not at all proud of my behaviour and I feel like a neglectful mother. However, yesterday was the day it would all come to and end. The snow set the stage for a guilt free day at home, and while futzing around on the internet, I did something spontaneous and entirely beyond my budget; I signed up for the Advanced WSET wine certificate. For the next four months I would be paying off monthly installments towards my class beginning in May.
Considering I am already treading water financially, it was going to take some maneuvering to make this all work - in other words, less eating in restaurants. There would have to be a reconciliation between my Kitchen and myself. In order for this to work, I would need some food. I threw on my snow boots, braved the slippery snow, and made my way to the Park Slope Food Coop for some supplies. Eastern Parkway was oh so elegant with her snow capped trees, and her side walks dusted in powdery white. As I took this picture a woman passing behind me leaned in for a closer look. "Its very beautiful" she said with a thick Caribbean accent. "Yeah. But by tonight it will all be a slushy brown mess" I said looking back at her. "Ain't it the truth" she replied letting out a hearty laugh.
An hour later I arrived home with an overflowing bag of groceries, ready to get to work. I pulled everything down from the shelves and cabinets, wiped down every surface, and sanitized every inch of my neglected kitchen. These walls really need to be painted I thought to myself, and this pantry could really use a once over. There were so many things that need to be done and I found myself excited by the idea of giving my kitchen a face lift. Now of course, fixing up my kitchen would set me back a couple of dollars, but a coat of new paint and a little bit of reorganizing will encourage me to spend more time cooking, which in the end, will save me money. This is my theory at least, only time will tell.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Stained Teeth and My #3 Reason to Love The French

I have been hitting you awfully hard this month with entries centering around wacky French customs and observances. Does this make me dangerously close to being called a Francophile? Probably. Is that going to stop me from giving you my number three reason for why I love the French? Hell no.
I stumbled across my #3 reason when I was bartending at the cafe and a customer of mine (French) spilled red wine on her white silk blouse. "Oh dear" she said looking down wryly at the red blotch as though it had said or done something wildly inappropriate. " Would you like some club soda?" I offered trying to be helpful. "Oh no" she said waving her hand, " bring me a glass of white wine." "But the club soda may help remove the stain," I replied, thinking that she may not have understood me. " Oh, I understood you," she said, her pride brimming " but the best way to remove a red wine stain is with white wine, not with club soda." She ran her index finger down the list of wines by the glass, passing the house white (a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc), the Pinot Blanc (a moderately priced Alsacian), and then pausing at the Sancerre (our most expensive white by the glass)." I'll take this one, " she requested. It seemed a bit extravagent to use such an expensive glass of wine for the purpose of removing a stain, but then again, she was French and in the end, it did remove the red wine from her blouse.

I must say, I was amazed. I priased the French for their infinite wisdom and when two days later a friend of mine, Andrew, found himself with wine stained lips after a Malbec rampage, I suggested that he might clean his lips and whiten his teeth with a nice crisp glass of Sancerre.
" What do you think about a glass of Prosecco?" he asked, kicking it up a notch. Now clearly Andrew was in no need of more vino. Still, I could not fight my curiousity, " I bet the bubbles would create a kind of scrubbing effect" I responded with glee. Andrew ordered a glass of bubbly and the Rioja totting Spaniard sitting beside him at the bar leaned in, " I don't mean to listen to your conversation but, did you say you were going to remove the red wine stain on your mouth with Prosecco? I am Spanish (pause) and we know a bit about wine, (pause) and I have never heard of such a thing." He looked perplexed, and almost anxious at the idea that his wine knowledge was lacking such unessentials . I fought the urge to feed his pompus anxiouty with insinuations that our hair-brained scheme was common knowledge among those in the know, and I explained everything to him.
When the Prosecco arrived, The Spaniard and I watch intently as Andrew sipped then scrubbed, sipped then scrubbed his lips and tongue.
Whether the French remedy worked, or fail in the end is rather obvious from Andrew's purple tinted tongue. Perhaps we should have splurged and gotten a glass of Champagne.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Case of The Februaries?

Usually I read on my way to work to help speed the wasted hours of commuting. This morning however, no matter how hard I tried, I was unable to concentrate so I reached for my I-pod. I swiveled down my list of artists, and for the life of me could not decide what listen to because truthfully, I did not feel like listening to anything. After a few more idle minutes, I traded in the I-pod for brooding like a hormonal teenager. What the hell was going on with me? Why have I been feeling so apathetic, so anti-social, so, lukewarm about everything? Could I be suffering from a case of what Horvendile of A Likely Story, calls The Februaries? Here are my other symptoms that corroborate my creeping suspicion that i am indeed suffering from this seasonal malady.

Symptom #1 "Self-indulgence masquerading as self-reflection"

This morning the larger of my skinny jeans did not fit me as comfortably as I would have liked. Translation: I could only just get the zipper up while standing, but would risk serious embarrassment by sitting down in them. I can’t believe this! How did this happen? I shouted at my bulging reflection in the mirror. The truth of the matter was that I knew oh too well how this happened. It’s called eating ice cream once and sometimes even twice a day for two weeks! Not too much of a mystery there.
Why the abuse? I have been telling myself that it is all in the name of research. How am I to break into the ice cream business, if I don’t eat lots and lots of ice cream? All I have to say is that if I don’t get rid of this case of the Februaries, the only thing I will be breaking into is a pair of plus size jeans.

Symptom #2 ‘Why Bother?’

The, what the hell am I doing with my life panic, that seems to set in this time of year has only been met head on with the, why even bother doing anything with my life indifference that is doing a pretty good job of unraveling me. You are right Matt; it’s not despair that I’m feeling. Despair would be a welcomed improvement from my disgruntled, yet unjustifiably phlegmatic state. Despair would signal the coming of spring, the season of giving a shit, the season of sucking it up and doing something about it.

Symptom #3 “Massive Social Hibernation”

Lets just say that, my apartment is clean, all my bills are paid, and I’m doing a good job of catching up on this years reading.

Symptom #4 “Mister Roboto”

That’s Miss Roboto to you. I have unconsciously developed the worst fake smile and, like those aging TV actresses who are over zealous about Botox, I seem to have no control over it. Just look at me for longer than five seconds and that goofy smile will magically display its self. March better get here fast, or people are gonna begin to think I’m the Prozac Queen.

Symptom #5 “I just called to say I love you…”

Now I’ve skipped over a few important symptoms in order to get to the granddaddy of them all, Valentine’s Day. Somehow, I seem never to have a boyfriend for Valentine’s Day, not that I would relish the holiday if I had. Romance is a spontaneous thing. You can’t plan it, you certainly can’t buy it, and you’re lost if you think your gonna find it in a quaint little restaurant, seated side by side with other couples all trying to have a romantic meal of their own, all the while, listening to cheesy love songs, and sharing a heart shaped cherry cobbler. That’s the curse of St. Valentine if you are paired off.

Now if you’re single, Valentine’s Day is just as much of a trap. Stay home and read a book or watch Sex and The City like your February Social Hibernations is telling you to do, and you’re a loser. Go out with your chick friends for some, we’re single and okay with that drinks, and you’re an even bigger loser.

The restaurant where I work is offering their annual Valentine’s Day pre fix, and all this week the reservation have been rolling in, table for two 6pm, table for two 7:30, and could we have that romantic table by the fire place… blah, blah, blah. There is one reservation however that brought a smile, a genuine smile, to my face. It’s a reservation for one. That’s right, one. And, it’s not an error, for example not remembering it would be Valentines Day and therefore, full of couples. The reservation was informed of the special pre fix and chose to take part in the Valentine’s meal, all by themselves. I won’t reveal the name of the reservation, but what I will say is that you, Reservation For One, are my one and only Valentine’s Day hero, and I mean it from the bottom of my heart.

Symptom #6 My Very Own

Now this symptom is one of my very own. It’s not a common one, but if you find yourself suffering from it, just consider it an added bonus.

This morning I left for work much earlier than I am used to. I did this, not because I was overzealous about working a day shift, but in order to take a TB test that the health department was requiring of all employees. That’s right people, TUBERCULOSIS! When hearing the words, have a good day and, good luck with the TB test! from my roommate this morning, I strangely felt like a character out of a freakin’ Charlotte Bronte novel. And get this, when do we have to come back in to get our results? Valentine’s Day! I do have a dark sense humor and, if I weren’t suffering from a wicked case of The Februaries, I might actually find that funny.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

La Chandeleur - Another French Holiday

The first time I heard of La Chandeleur was when I invited Regine to my Boxing Day Brunch where I was planning on serving crepes. She just laughed at me because, sort of like wearing white after Labor Day is considered uncouth in the United States, making crepes this side of La Chandeleur is apparently unheard of in France.

La Chandeleur is celebrated the second day of February and marks the day that the baby Jesus was taken before Simeon and declared " the light of the world." Here is the part of the story where I declare, yet again, that I love the French and their ability to take any boring religious holiday and turn it into a celebration that artfully intertwines slapstick ritual and pastry.

You see, the French don't celebrate this religious milestone by spending the entire day in church. No way! Instead they make crepes because La Chandeleur also marks the kick-off of the crepe making season and is sort of a French equivalent of Ground Hogs Day. How exactly is it done? Just follow these easy steps and you'll soon be partying it up and stuffing down crepes like a wild Frenchman.

1.) Find a gold coin, a franc, a Euro (which is what I used), or even a quarter.
2.) Light lots of candles because, how could it be a hokey holiday without candles...
3.) Be careful not to burn your place down with all those dangerous candles.
4.)Make crepe batter.

Crepe Batter Recipe
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups of whole milk
1/2 cup of water
dash of sugar/salt/orange blossom water

Blend all ingredients in blender until the suction whole
in the center of the mixture is roughly the size of a quarter

5.) Pour batter into a properly greased crepe pan and spread batter evenly across pan. If the batter is too thick, add more water. When the crepe is ready to flip, hold your chosen coin in your left hand while attempting to flip the crepe with your right. If you manage to flip the crepe perfectly you will be blessed with good luck and an early Spring. If the crepe lands badly hold on, its gonna be a long and luckless winter.

As you can see, after a bit of practice my crepe flipping skills have earned me good luck and an early Spring. Hopefully my tardiness in celebrating - its already February 11th- won't get me expelled from the program. Even though the winter has only just now decided to show her icy face at the party, I would not be at all upset to see her duck out early.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Make More Ice Cream - A Long Commute

“Your re-board pass?” He was looking down at me with an air of composed disgust. It wasn’t a unique detestation held for me especially, rather a universal one he felt for all of us who happened to be ridding his bus that particular evening. I was midway threw Nina Simone’s live version of The Rising Sun Blues and had not heard his request. His irritation however, clearly displayed with his creased forehead and pursed eyebrows, was evident and so I removed my headphones and looked up at him with a fatigued smile waiting for him to repeat himself.
It had been an awfully full weekend; jam packed with an exhausting schedule of lactose-laced lectures, demonstrations, and networking. I hadn’t eaten solid foods in three days, only ice cream. If you have ever wonder if it were possible to survive on ice cream alone, the answer is yes, it’s possible, though I don’t advise it.
Here I am tasting samples of vanilla and chocolate that display subtle and not so subtle variation in processing, composition, and flavoring. I was beginning to exhibit some pretty severe signs of sugar withdrawal, brought on by an equally cruel ice cream hangover. Wow, I ate way too much ice cream, I thought to myself as I took in the cheerlessness of my current circumstances.

“ YOUR-RE-BOAR-DING--PASS, THE-ONE-I-GAVE-YOU-IN-HARR-IS-BURG, DO-YOU-HAVE-IT?” He repeated this in a tone and manner that seemed to imply a mental inadequacy on my part. “If you remember giving me a re-boarding pass, then why do I need to show it to you to stay on the bus?” I was asking with sincere curiosity. He didn’t care at all for my response and, flaring his nostrils just as disturbingly as he bulged his eyes, he stomped off to the front of the bus cursing as he went.

It’s probably not such a hot idea to piss of the bus driver. As he jerked the bus violently out of the Philadelphia station, I wondered if we would make it back to New York in one piece. It would be a shame if my last supper came out of a vending machine. Then again, if it were my time to go, at least I had the chance to spend the weekend immersed in the subject of ice cream and surrounded by like-minded people.

Curious what kinds of people decide to take a two-day intensive course dedicated entirely to ice cream? I certainly was. The first lecturer gave me the opportunity to find out when he asked each of us to stand up and introduce ourselves and explain why it was we were there.
“ Hi, my name is Tom. I was a school teacher for twenty five years and am looking to retire and though an ice cream store might be a fun business to get into.” “My name is David. I manage a bank, I love ice cream, and am thinking of making a carrier change and thought, why not an ice cream shop?” etc. Half of the people there were looking to ice cream for retirement or a career change. Five of them were bankers, which amused me to no end. Just think about it, the guy who talks to you about high interest saving and IRAs sitting there in his office dreaming up new and exciting ice cream flavors. I’ll never look at my banker the same way again.

Two women wanted to make ice cream from their own milk, one from her flock of Nigerian Dwarf Goats, and another from her six-legged cow, now if that isn’t a great gimmick I don’t know what is. Many of the students already owned ice cream shops, while others had no intention of going into business; they were there simply on the merits of their deep affection for ice cream.

Then, of course, there was me, “Hi, my name is Madeline. I live in New York and write a food blog that chronicles my adventures in food, and yes you guessed it, Ice Cream.” I didn’t mention that I it was my dream to open an ice cream shop because, even in this crowd of ice cream fanatics, I felt a bit foolish and unsure of myself. As the weekend drew on however, I found myself becoming more and more encouraged as I learned about the ins and outs of the ice cream business. Perhaps this foolish food adventure is not so foolish after all. Now all I have to do is get back to New York, and off this bus, in one piece.