Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Oh, but it gets better!

Well, NTS is mostly over the 2nd round of the Evil Virus. He still is a bit whiny and cranky and so forth, but he is a lot more sprightly about it, especially when he has a pint of children's analgesic coursing riotously through his bloodstream.

As I type, he is yodeling in the shower.

Of course, we're not to be granted such a wonderful reprieve for long. On the 10th it'll be NTS's First Communion. As per family policy, we scheduled a medium-ish brunch reception at the country club.

Well.

We got a call today that, because of some lawsuit (details of which are nebulous at the moment) the club will shut its doors on the 3rd, and will not reopen until a) the lawsuit thing is settled or b) the company operating same is replaced with another one.

Those of you with an abacus handy will quickly realize this does not bode well for something scheduled for May 10th. Many will also note that this is a heavy "social weekend" with a great deal of travel related to Mother's Day (on the 11th) and pretty much anywhere we'd want to be is packed.

My wife, God bless her, is adamant the current club management secure a comparable venue for the reception and -- get this -- said alternative venue honor the prices we were given. I am of the opinion that people who have lost their jobs are not likely to stretch very far in this regard nor are they likely to be swayed by her howls and imprecations, which normally carry far more weight among those who DO have something to lose.

(I suggested we have brunch at home. She looked at me as if I were deranged. Which I am, but that is an eminently sensible suggestion.)

Oy,

-J.

Posted by Joke at 3:08 PM 6 comments

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Once more, with feeling.

You know the boomerang is about to thwack you in the head when your youngest arrives cranky from school, searing with fevah, pointing at his neck and saying "fwoat."

No mopping needed...yet.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 1:06 AM 5 comments

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Film Flashback (Apr. 25/08)

From the wildly underrated film Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid



and



-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:10 AM 2 comments

Thursday, April 24, 2008

"Let me get your advice."

As promised, the bloggery she resumeth.

One of the many distinguishing features which dot my personal landscape is my openness to taking advice, even of learning from other people. I may be obnoxious and arrogant in real life, but I am not proud, if youseewhatImean.

The extremely lovely and wildly gracious Poppy clues me to Nueske's bacon and it's firmly imprinted in my frontal lobe forever, the lovely and gracious Badger suggests Tito's vodka and I nod assent. I ask my global audience -- which, granted, skews heavily towards the Australian Knitter Guild* -- to help me decide between X and Y and I allow the will of the people to manifest itself in my life.

Why, you can imagine how the conversation plays out at Chez Joke when the answer to TFBIM's inquiry as to why the remodeled kitchen must feature a cheese drawer is something like "Because Blackbird said it was vital."

And so, given the human condition, it is also natural that I am asked for advice. What's weird is that anyone taking my advice is so damned infrequent that modern statisticians give up calculating the infinitessimal and quit in despair (or possibly disgust) and say it cannot be done until microchip technology catches up.

What's even weirder is that people who ask my advice and then studiously avoid even the merest resemblance of following it then ask me for more advice later. No, it makes no sense to me either. Many a husband of one of TFBIM's benighted friends has come asking for advice on how to dress for Event X...or even just how to dress better and they all walk away shaking their heads. To such as these, a pocket square is an outward sign of manifest idiocy and wearing any cologne or even aftershave -- regardless of the very desirable, er, consequences at home -- indistinguishable from the most virulent form of transvestism.

But yet these repeat customers return in waves.

Over the weekend, we had people over for brunch (rapidly becoming my new favorite team sport) and at one point someone raved over the sausage and asked for the recipe** but caught herself and said "No, wait. If it's your sausage recipe, it probably starts off with 'wean a Berkshire piglet and then...'"

Mind you, I don't mind giving unheeded advice. I know I'm invariably right and I enjoy the process of exposition. Telling someone how best to proceed in any given situation is both a gift and supremely enjoyable for its own sake, and the frequent "Y'know, I should have done what you suggested..." can scarcely add to that.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the bosom of my very own house. The only problem here is that one's beloved, whose bonhomie and/or irritability are indecipherably...uh...cyclical (diplomatic enough?) in nature does not take well to my smug chants of "See? I told you so!" and that does tend to dampen my glee somewhat.

In other news, my regularly scheduled Annual Slim-Down hath begun.

-J.

* DISCLAIMER: Not all the knitters are Australian, and not all the Australians are knitters. Some, I have been informed, are neither.

** Recipe to follow

Posted by Joke at 10:28 AM 9 comments

Please stand by

We seem to have cleared the worst.

Resumption of bloggery is imminent.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 6:48 AM 0 comments

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ew.

There is pestilence at Chez Joke. The least waylaid among us has to do the ministering to the others and that includes mopping.

It is not pretty.

More as soon as this blows over. No pun intended.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:40 PM 5 comments

Friday, April 18, 2008

More You Tube love.

Friday's Film Flashback...


and



Man does this make me happy...

-J.

P.S. To prove the complete and utter worthlessness of the Oscars, this film lost in the Best Original Screenplay to...get this...Ghost.

Posted by Joke at 12:07 AM 5 comments

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Doubt me, do you?

Look at this:

Consider the fact we're in APRIL, admittedly the cruelest month, pretty much a full month into spring (those of you in the other hemisphere pretend it's October and that we're talking about one of the very warmest of major cities) and it's pretty much "unusually crisp and breezy."

Nobody has heeded the warnings of climatologists and look at us now.

-J.


Posted by Joke at 8:21 AM 0 comments

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Too cool.

But, before I get to the coolness, Election Results.

Butcher block wins, in a landslide. Order has been placed. I'd especially like to thank those of you who sussed out the fact it was a binary thing, if you will. I realized that I actually don't care about stains/scorch marks all that much and, if one such stain were to be so outrageous and upsetting, replacing the whole hunk of butcher block is a relative pittance. My intent is to make this kitchen a working kitchen, which includes a certain...er...patina. So that's that.

Oh, and I need a new meat thermometer. To celebrate the end of tax season and my SAHDness, I bought a whole tenderloin of beef to roast and, while I didn't RUIN it, it was definitely subpar. I seared it off, set it on the cool side of the porno grill and set the thermometer to beep when it got to "rare" only that it LEAPT to medium without stopping by rare or medium-rare. It was merely okay and -- you foodies in the crowd will know the feeling -- I am still smoldering bitterly over the injustice of this world.

OK, coolness (with a tip o' the Trilby to the very lovely and exceedingly gracious Poppy.)



and



and



-J.

Posted by Joke at 11:51 PM 2 comments

Sunday, April 13, 2008

It's the little things...

...that make me happy.




.

.

.

.

As you were.

-J.


Posted by Joke at 4:04 AM 5 comments

Friday, April 11, 2008

X marks the spot.













Today makes it TEN years I have been pals with the very lovely and exceedingly gratious Poppy.

MWAH!

-J.


Posted by Joke at 10:31 PM 2 comments

Thursday, April 10, 2008

YouTube makes heroin addiction look like a craving for "something chocolaty"

From one of my fave unremembered films of the 1980s.


-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:39 PM 7 comments

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My carefully arranged posting schedule goes to Hell in a basket.

I blame the Easter brunch.

I was planning on posting on the matter of our trip to California to hang out with the very lovely and exceedingly gracious Poppy and her crew, but then I remembered that I had the brunch thing still moldering in my draft pile and, in posting same, threw the whole thing way out of whack.

So here is the post that was elbowed aside, as done in my inimitable "contractual obligation" style, teeming with glee and enthusiasm.Poppy told the staff of the Japanese restaurant where we dined on our first night that it was my birthday. This is what they brought as they sang "Happy Birthday" in what I assume was authentic Japanese. Master Buxom (age 12 and as tall as I am) and NOS (age 10.5 and a foot and a half shorter than Master Buxom, and almost half his weight) off on the right side of the image you can discern Poppette in full pink regalia.
The Buxoms and NOS. The ferris wheel at Disneyland's California Adventure has two types of gondolæ, the usual kind that just goes around and one that has tracks and therefore spins and swings and loops -- at a pretty good clip, too -- which is quite impressive given the ferris wheel in question is 150 feet tall. Master Buxom didn't care for the swingery but NOS did, so we swapped eldest sons. Even in the mild version, TFBIM pretty much had a total neurological collapse.NTS runs into a hail of bubbles as we attempt to exit the park in a rush (we had to get back to our room and then proceed thither to dinner).NOS has difficulties with his sweatshirt on our way to dine with Poppy & Crew.
Are you tired, NOS?
I'll take that as a "yes." (Notice we hadn't even taken off yet!)

-J.

P.S. Since this post will shove everything down, don't forget to vote*.

* Nobody's telling THIS Floridian not to count all the votes.


Posted by Joke at 9:23 AM 8 comments

Monday, April 07, 2008

A cross between a survey and a plea for help.

You may remember the long-gestating kitchen re-do.

The only thing holding the project back has been the matter of the countertop. I had long leaned in the direction of butcher block, even though I was worried about its various* drawbacks. A big part of why I did could be explained by the fact the butcher block color is ideal for the (postmodern Mediterranean, if that makes any damned sense) kitchen as planned.

Well! Something's come up. (Stay with me, because you're in this.)

Limestone.

The color works, it won't scorch and I think the price** is more or less right up my congenitally cheapskate alley.

(Here's where you come in.)

So...aye or nay on the limestone? (Anything that is not an "aye" will be considered a vote for butcher block. This is not a pure democracy, this is a representative republic.) Feel free to voice your opinion, or someone else's with a notarized statement, in the combox. You have until, say, Friday.

As you were.

-J.

* Believe it or else, the bacterial contamination thing isn't as big a deal as originally feared.
** Though not as ridiculously cheap as butcher block. Even super-duper fancy-pants butcher block -- finger-joined hardrock maple from John Boos & Co. -- is only 25%-33% the price of limestone.

Posted by Joke at 9:45 AM 17 comments

Friday, April 04, 2008

Check out my equipment.

The lovely and gracious Jaye, at her other blog, posted on the matter of her fave kitchen gear and she proceeded to ask her readership to do likewise.

Since her orders are like commands to me, here are my two most heavily used bits of kitchen equipment. Here you can see my knives in the heaviest rotation. They are (from left to right) Calphalon Katana 7" santoku, 6" slicer, 6" utility, 9" serrated, Shun 8" yanagiba (mostly for thinly slicing delicate things) and 7" nakiri (mostly for light cleaver-y dicing/chopping). My go-to knife is the 7" santoku, it is a spectacular all-rounder.The blade is that "damascus" steel which is emblematic of Japan (and not, ironically, of Damascus). The principle is that soft and hard steels are layered to give the blade superior durability and sharpness and edge retention. It is, by far, the sharpest knife (along with its brethren) I have ever owned -- and this includes a slew of Wüsthofs, Henckels, Sabatiers, Füris and Shuns -- it is apocalyptically sharp.
I'm pleased to have gotten these knives at a price that is far, far closer to larceny than retail. (It was a set with a knife missing and a damaged block. Wound up about 75% off retail.)

Here are the pots and pans which I have in heaviest rotation. From left-to-right they are a Cuisinart saucier, Calphalon anodized 12" sauté pan (my oldest pan still in use, it's seasoned so much it's practically nonstick by now), Bourgeat 12" skillet and Calphalon "mini" stockpot (not pictured are the pasta strainer and stacking steamer baskets). My main piece is the Bourgeat.
You can tell it's been through the wars.
The bottom is suitably scorched and also scuffed.
I bought this about 12 years ago at a restaurant supply place and, later on, I was much pleased to discover that Gordon Ramsay used the same one. The rivets are still tight and even though its nonstick (and THE most durable nonstick I've ever owned) it still develops an amazing bit of caramelization when you sauteé things.

There you have it.

-J.


Posted by Joke at 11:08 AM 6 comments

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Laying low.

It is not only tax season, but the last 10 days before the end of tax season, during which those who traipsed off across the continent to loiter with Poppy for a week must make up for lost time AND do so while having the serial-murderer variant of PMS.

It is a very wise SAHD, with a keenly developed case of self-preservation, who hides in the tall grass.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 2:16 PM 7 comments

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Joke's Book Club: Poppy be thanked.

This book is a fun read. It will carry you though a flight from California to Florida. That said, it is NOT an exhaustive or, by its own admission, even-handed in its approach. As the author states in the preface, this book is about New York and California, with a chemical trace of Chicago. Boston and Miami, the author admits with his apologies, were excluded, as were others.

The exclusions extend beyond geography. Cook's Illustrated, the bible for the perfectionist foodie, is mentioned in passing, and the public TV series that gave us the first glimpse of celebrity chefs (Great Chefs) isn't even mentioned at all. Most of the chefs who have become prominent in the last 10 years get mentioned cursorily, if at all.

To a hardcore foodie, these omissions -- especially if you are among the groups omitted -- kind of stand out. But that's mostly in hindsight.

These sins are covered up by the dispassionately gossipy nature of the writing. The evolution of the American outlook on food is traced through the careers (and often, the private lives) of the principals involved. James Beard, Craig Claiborne and Julia Child are the principals and you learn all you need to know about their secrets by midbook. Some of the supporting players (Alice Waters, Wolfgang Puck, Jeremiah Tower) are also examined assiduously...although in JT's case, all there was to know about his "pansexual libertinism" he covered in his autobiography, in far greater detail.

The book traces the changes from the food-as-fuel farmstand ethos, the comfortable bastardizations of ethnic enclaves, and the gorge-fests of the trencherpersons of 100 years ago; through the arrival of classical French chefs at the outbreak of WWII, to the processed food epoch, to how the 1960s led to a revolution in farming, to how foodiness grew to encompass foodways once sneered (Italian) or derided (Japanese), to the ingredient-driven state of things today.

I'm hoping for a sequel.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 6:15 PM 2 comments

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Fished out from the draft pile.

Here is a brief Easter brunch photo essay.

Table is set with the aforementioned plates and so forth.
The food has been demolished. It was my FiL who drank beer with brunch.
NOS unwinds after a hard job well done with a flute of Domaine Chandon Blanc de Blancs. (Relax, it had about an ounce in it.)

-J.


Posted by Joke at 10:20 AM 11 comments