Sunday, April 29, 2012

Frog n Snail

Frog n Snail is a beautiful, comfortable restaurant with roomy, gorgeous wood tables and terrific lighting that creates a simultaneously romantic, fun and practical ambience.  The staff were enthusiastic and friendly, and there were some delicious bites of food too.  So I hope that the missteps and bland dishes that stand out more in my mind right now were just new-restaurant kinks that will be worked out.

The best dish might have been the simplest: mussels cooked in a creamless, intensely citric and garlicky broth finished with absinthe and plenty of butter were the kind of dish you plan to share with companions, then subconsciously forget until they’re all gone.  Almost as good, the lyonnaise salad proved that in the deft hand of a chef who understand how to use it judiciously, black truffle oil can lend great complexity to a balanced, acidic dressing. Lardons, a runny poached egg on top and terrific French fries underneath make this a salad you might skip if you’re prepping, as a fair number of the beefy, skin-tight-shirt-wearing Frog n Snail clientele may have been, to participate in the Friday night shower show at Spin a couple of blocks away.

Unfortunately, my first bite of the night was a disastrous one.  The sweet pea risotto was woefully crunchy and chalky, having been either substantially undercooked or cooked too far in advance, allowed to dry out, and reheated improperly.  Restaurant risotto is often inferior to home cooked risotto on account of it being impractical for a restaurant cook on a busy weekend night to stir constantly while patiently adding liquid a little at time for 25 minutes, but there are techniques that manage this challenge while producing results far better than Frog n Snail’s.

The rest of the meal sat mostly in the middle of the mussels high and the risotto low.  A namesake dish of crisp, beautifully cooked frogs legs and minerally snails in a green peppercorn sauce showed excellent technique, but it was underseasoned and the frogs legs themselves were in especially desperate need of salt.  The broth in the French onion soup seemed too light in color and flavor, though some terrific, sweet spring peas lifted it, so maybe a certain light spring-ness was what the kitchen was going for with this traditionally rich, dark dish.  Two fish preparations – barramundi and trout – were good, though each seemed unfocused, with at least one too many ingredients.

For now Frog n Snail is byob, but a bartender said that will be changing soon with a cocktail list that he assured me would include “a lot of really awesome martinis”.  That, combined with the mixed bag of dishes, a well-meaning, hard working server who had no idea how to explain the word barigoule on the menu, and Spin shower show days that have long passed, left me doubtful that this will prove to be more than a very occasional spot for me.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hey, It's NIAW

I really tried with this new blog not to focus on my infertility.  But since it's National Infertility Awareness Week I figured why not take this opportunity to share a little about my story.

I think I've just come to this point where I want to accept my fate and stop fighting against it.  I think I gave it the good fight, the best I could under the circumstances, and now I've pretty much aged out.  I'm 40 years old now.  After 10 IUIs, I've been told by my RE that I'm a poor responder to fertility medication.  And then I found out last month I have endometriosis.  The odds are already stacked against me, trying to get pregnant for over 6 years.  If I couldn't get pregnant all the years that lead to now, it's very doubtful it's going to happen.

There have been a couple of brief moments where I thought we had a shot with adoption but they fell through and damn it hurt way more than I thought it would even in the early stages.  I tend to think that things are happening for a reason and we are being pushed in a direction and though I know it sounds like baloney I'm just tired of fighting against it.  I'm ready to stop fighting the current.  I'm tired and I just want to let go.

I've been trying for quite a while now to accept that I'm not going to be a mom.  All the kid stuff is gone from the house.  I have a few children's books that just feel too hard right now to let go of but maybe one day soon.  But everything else I've worked to let go off.  And most of the time I'm okay.  Sometimes I'm even relieved.  If there's a kid at a store that's acting up, Brian and I both sigh in contentment.

Still, there's a nagging feeling of why?  Why the big set up?  From when I was the youngest I can remember I wanted children.  I loved my baby dolls.  My barbies were always pregnant with cotton balls under their shirt or they had children barbies.  Let's just say they never had careers.  If it was between Veterinarian Barbie and Stay-at-home Mommy barbie, even in the thick of the Feminist 70s, I was going with Mommy barbie.  So why the desire?  I mean, if there is a God.  How much easier to not have the big build up, the wait for true love, the perfect life and bam, no kids for you.  Why not just let me be into something else, anything else?

But, I mean, it's fine, whatever.  I'll just have this shift of everything I've believed in my ENTIRE LIFE and just be me.  Me and Brian.  This is obviously how it's meant to be.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bona Food Magazine // Our Journey to Hard Copy

                                           BONA FOOD MAGAZINE - MAKE IT POZIBLE

Four Bowls, A Crock And A Jar

Four Bowls:

1) Salmon pasta with peas at Benny's Chop House. This disgusting thing was up there with the worst of Buca di Maggiano Garden. Limp, luke-warm noodles suffocating in a deep lake of heavy bisque flavored by dry bits of raunchy fish and starchy, tasteless peas. I should note that I once had a great steak at Benny's, served with an especially delicious Yorkshire pudding filled with oxtail jus. Why, you might ask, would I ever order pasta at a steak joint like this? According a prior visit's server, Benny's does or did share an executive chef with an Italian joint, and Italian cooking was, the server explained, the chef's true passion. She lauded the pastas in particular.

2) Seafood ramen at Ginza. Nausea and regret stemming from that Benny's bowl were cured by this one. The food at Ginza almost always has that effect on me, and this clean, light, seafood broth with fresh-tasting assortment including some of the plumpest, most delicious mussels in memory really did the trick.

3) Pea risotto at Markethouse. It's a shame that this place is where it is and doesn't do much to compensate, because the food always outshines the setting. The rice here was firm but gave easily to the bite, and was held in a creamy, buttery suspension flavored intensely by a wonderful pea puree. The peas themselves were tender and delicious, and the judiciously applied, earthy mushroom assortment were a nice little enhancement. As for the setting, for standard hotel-dining it's probably not bad; it's just that the restaurant absolutely screams WE'RE IN A HOTEL at you the whole time, from the name-plated staff and cheesy elevator music to the closed-off breakfast-cereal bar that sits prominently in the dining room during lunch and dinner service.

4) Linguini with clams at GT Fish & Oyster. I ate at Boka a few times when the GT chef was at the helm, and I always thought the food looked better than it tasted. I can't remember disliking anything, but every server's description that made me think, "Wow, that sounds fantastic," led to a taste that made me think, "Hmm., that's not bad." Would that this background info ended with me telling you that all has changed now that the chef has moved to a more casual place with less fine dining pretense. As with much of what I've had at Boka, the linguini was just too "refined" for me. The made-in-house pasta lacked the heartiness of dried, and I think of lingini with clams as a big, hearty dish. At GT it was loaded with butter - fine butter I'm sure - and the clams were quite good, but their flavor did not infuse the butter at all. In the end this was tender housemade pasta with an excellent butter sauce. Missing were toasty garlic, clam aroma wafting from the bowl, and good, pungent olive oil to finish the dish.

A Crock:

Chilaquiles at Xoco. Wood ovens may do great things for pizza and bread, but it turns out they are lousy at cooking chilaquiles. This crock of tortillas swam in liquid salsa, the two never coming together to improve one another. An egg or two which must have been pre-cooked before hitting the oven came out rubbery and dry atop the crock, once again not integrated at all into the dish. I understand that Xoco is limited by the fact that they don't have a stovetop or grill to use at service. What I don't understand is why, if that's the case, they chose to put something like chilaquiles on the menu.

A Jar:

Clam chowder at GT Fish & Oyster. This should have been called bacon-cream soup. Way too much heavily smoked pork in this chowder, and more of those tasty-enough clams that failed to infuse the broth in any discernible way. This looked and tasted like pure gimmick.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Homemade Nutella // Video Post

We threw this video together and deemed it totally necessary to share it's all natural chocolate-y goodness!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Gotta Go Potty - Week Six

So I'm cleared to do whatever I want.  Good thing because on Friday I helped move a sofa (granted it was an Ikea sofa so it was half as light as a normal sofa) and Saturday I distributed 40 lb bags of dirt in a sad attempt to level out the back yard (so not going to happen).

Sometime approaching my 40th birthday I decided I didn't want to look at my french daybed anymore.  I bought it 100 years ago because I thought it was the perfect kids bed.  And there it sat waiting for a kid for 100 years.  It was too small for a guest bed (it's smaller than a twin believe it or not) and uncomfortable to sit on like a sofa because of the sides so it just gathered cat hair and was one more reminder how I'm not going to be a mommy.

I wanted it gone.

I was going to get a double bed, a respectable guest bed for real live guests.  Then we moved next door and all our extra money went to renovating the blue house.  The more we were here the more I thought what would be great is to have a pull out sofa.  Then we'd still have the space of the room and be able to fold it out for guests.

Then my mom found a perfectly good (well stained and slightly ripped) Ikea sofa being thrown out (oh, rich people).  She got it home and since I knew my mom has 3 extra sofas I said to her if you ever want to get rid of this sofa I'll buy it from you.  And eventually she agreed.  Then there were weeks, endless weeks of trying to organize how to move the sofa over here and move the day bed to her house in an empty bedroom.  Finally Friday Brian and I rented a truck and move it ourselves.


It's not a fold out but that's okay.  I can see how I like having a sofa in the space and maybe one day we can buy a fold out if that's what we decide is best of for the space.  The awesomeness is getting the sad daybed out and something to replace it for FREE!

The daybed is gone.  I've been looking at it since I bought it thinking about the kids I would have and the stories I would read them in that bed and now that I'm 40 with 6 years of infertility behind me I don't have to look at it anymore to remind me of the things I don't have.

...Which leads to my segway, because try as you might, somethings can not be escaped...

Yesterday we drove to visit a couple of my husband's college buddies vacationing about an hour away.  This is the scenario that I still have the hardest problem with.  The guys separate to talk about sports and the girls sit together and talk about their kids.  I don't have kids so what do I possible have to contribute to the conversation?  I was literally sitting on this beautiful perfect beach between the guys and the girls completely by myself.  Completely by myself.  It's the weirdest feeling.

I try to remind myself that it's like this for a reason that I'm supposed to feel like this and that I'm going to be okay and though I'm missing out on babies, my life is still going to be great and wonderful and just because I feel moments of intense sadness because I'm not a mom and therefore basically APART, I've felt this way most of my life, I can handle this.  I think I just always thought one day I would feel normal and part of the normalcy of life, but just because I never will doesn't mean everything is terrible.  I'm going to be okay.  I wasn't even jealous of not having kids.  I just wanted to be a part of it, part of the group, part of something bigger than myself.  If I had kids I could talk about my kids, I could say mommy things like gotta go potty.  We could gab forever the sweet anecdotes about our kids because what else would we talk about?  That's all moms do, right?

Eventually Brian noticed me, honestly I was surprised it took him so long, and we walked down to the ocean by ourselves and I watched him jump in the ice cold water.  When we got back I stood with him and the guys and eventually every one moved to the heated pool and then back up to the suite for dinner.

At one point I was sitting with Brian's friend's mom and we were talking and I was thinking to myself yes, maybe older women is the way to go to have things to talk about.  Older women go to movies and travel and have pets and garden, this is perfect.

Conversation got quiet for a moment and then she said, "My granddaughter is a dancer."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ribollita at Publican Quality Meats and Bar Toma. A Pizza Too

Ribollita is the humblest of soups - often a bunch of leftover stuff that’s about to go bad boiled into something hearty that fills the stomach for another meal. At home, I might might haphazardly throw it together out of pantry staples such as stale bread and wilting produce when I don’t feel like leaving the house, and if it comes out looking clumsy and tasting fair I’m OK with that. But when I order ribollita at a restaurant helmed by a famous chef I think I have a right to expect more. One such famous chef delivered on that expectation and then some, while another came up embarrassingly short.

Publican Quality Meats puts far more care into their ribollita than would your average Italian Grandma, and it shows. The broth is complex, with deep, porky flavor and tongue-tingling acidity. Each bean has retained its shape, and is creamy while maintaining a bit of pleasant bite. Kale, bread and other ingredients are cut thoughtfully into sizes that fit comfortably on a soup spoon, allowing the eater to focus on eating and enjoying rather than dissecting or, worse, choking. Perhaps best of all, the soup is topped at service with a hefty drizzle of some awfully good, pungent, fruity olive oil. At PQM, this humble soup is elevated into something immensely satisfying and special.

Bar Toma has been serving ribollita as a special. They need to stop. Plating this horrible bowl of salty, sloppy nothingness would embarrass any cook who tasted what PQM is offering. The broth in Bar Toma’s ribollita tastes like nothing but vinegar and salt. 5-inch strips of tough greens that are impossible to eat in any reasonable way fill the bowl, along with big globs of cheese and bread. This is a miserable bowl of food by any standards; that it comes from a restaurant named for the chef of Chicago’s most famous Italian restaurant is disturbing.

I posted some time ago about Bar Toma’s characterless pizza crust. A reviewer I like recently said positive things about it though, so I wondered if things had changed. Indeed, the crust on my more recent pizza was less bready, thinner, and texturally more interesting than the first time. Still not great, but better. Unfortunately, the kitchen’s sloppiness carried over from the soup to the pizza topping. As is apparent from the photo, sauce was applied in an extremely uneven way, leaving some pieces too saucy and others brittle and dry. The gimmicky tableside grating of dried oregano left a couple of ineble branches on the pie, and I think the anchovies should have been either sliced smaller and applied broadly, or rinsed of at least some of their unpalatable salinity.

If you’re one of those readers who just skip to the summary, here you go: Publican Quality Meats is wonderful. Bar Toma’s bad, careless cooking has placed it on my avoid-forever list. I'm sure they'll miss me.

Monday, April 2, 2012

chia & apple chilled breakfast

Week 5 - Nail Tapping

Wow, I'm only posting once a week.  That really sucks.  Must try to do better.

So, week 5.  The hole where my drain was is still an ugly scab.  The worst part of the whole surgery around until then end.  I also still have glue remnants where they use surgical tape over the incisions.  The tape does not come off.  I even tried using rubbing alcohol via Dr Google and was able to get it of my belly button but my main scar still has some left.  I admit I'm nervous about rubbing alcohol getting on the scar.  I'm just going to wait it out.

I have little to no incision pain.  Even sleeping on my belly is no longer a big deal.  I'm still worried about the cats jumping on me (or my mom's dog).  I've also notice I do get occasional nausea that feels like I'm about to start my period, yet I'm CD14 so there's no way.  I do get relief when I use the bathroom.  It's weird to pay attention to these things.

I'm also ready to do stuff and this is my last week with no lifting anything heavy.  So next week will be great, I can do anything I want.  I did manage to paint the inside of the window that was broken into.  The handyman put in a new window and caulked it but there were tons of spots that needed painting.  Today we had shelves put in the front closet and I just finished painting the shelves and caulking the wood pieces in the closet that hold the shelf up.  I'm always worried about bug hiding places and any cracks that can be sealed with caulk may stop some rogue spider from making a home.  Also, believe it or not, it makes it look better to have a smooth finish.

My immediate to do list is:

Paint the fence white
Transplant hydranges from yellow house to blue house (they will need watering and Brian's mom isn't going to want the extra work)
Paint the office desk armoire (I'm thinking black on the outside and bright turquoise on the inside)