Monday, August 26, 2013

Anyhoo...

Sorry it's been so quiet over here.

We made a huge error a few days ago.  We heard a kitten under the house and after various attempts covering a couple of days to see the kitten and feel out the situation Brian decided to go under the house.  It's very tight and scary under there so I felt pretty bad.  Then he made it all the way from the back of the house where the entry is, to the front of the house, where the kitten was and stuck the kitten through the hole in the foundation (if you recall a few years ago the tenant living here stuck her hand through the hole in the foundation and rescued Fox). 

The kitten was way too small.  One eye was shut from conjunctivitis.  Obviously, even if I though the kitten could survive under my care, and that would be a huge question mark, with all the foster/adoption things coming up I think that would be a mistake.  So five minutes later Brian is showering and hacking up god knows what in the shower and I'm crying holding a 2 week old kitten who's sucking on my hand.

Luckily after much panicking we found the mom cat and even luckier she took the kitten back.  Not sure where she took the kitten, probably back to the same spot.  I don't have high hopes for this kitten, but after last summer when EVERY KITTEN DIED except Grayson who we rescued, I don't ever have high hopes for kittens.  We'll just have to wait a month or so and see if he shows up.  That said, all four kittens from the winter group made it, even after disappearing for a couple of months, they all came back.

I've been bottling up some pain lately since finding out my brother's (the other brother) girlfriend is pregnant.  I wasn't as emotional as I usually am with such news and I think I thought I had "grown."  But I was bawling holding that kitten, it was a little too much.  I think what hurt the most is somehow my mom trying to justify it by saying they didn't want to be like me, since she's in her young 30s and this might be her last chance.  I really don't want to think that people are looking at my life and thinking, jeez, I don't want to be like her.  Even if you feel that way, for pete's sake, don't tell me!

That really hurt my feelings. 

I also tried explained that what happened to me is an anomaly.   Most women do just fine having babies right up to 40, no need to rush, no reason to panic.  Every person I know with infertility issues has been able to get pregnant and have babies.  I'm the weirdo who couldn't.  But it's like telling someone, sure I stayed out late and now I'm a vampire, it doesn't mean you'll be a vampire if you stay out after dark.  People are too busy holding a cross up to your face to listen to what you are saying.  Shut up you crazy vampire!  I'll never be like you!

Anyhoo...

I'm trying to distract myself by planning a Halloween dinner party.  I want to keep my budget low for this.  I spent way too much on the last Oscar party and last year's Halloween Brian's costume got out of control (and didn't need to).  I'm trying to be smarter about it this year.  I enjoyed the French Les Miserables theme for the Oscar party and want to do more themed parties so for Halloween I'm going with the Hunger Games.  As things progress I'll share more, I do have a pinterest board set up if you are curious the direction I'm going.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A summer round-up

I've been too lazy/busy (delete as appropriate) over this summer to blog about everything liked I used to. This is probably a good thing in many respects, fewer boring posts about nothing much of interest being the outcome, although it does mean that I've tended to focus only on the positive, lacking the enthusiasm to write about the mediocre or downright bad experiences.

To redress the balance a bit, here's a round up of some recent eating and drinking. Some of it good, most of it not very. A theme if there is one: why put something on the menu if you don't know what it is or can't be bothered making it properly.

Stay tuned for the next thrilling instalment, in which I dine at Noma, go on a pintxo crawl around the backstreets of assorted small Basque towns, cook barbecue in Kentucky, hang out in Dalston's latest dens of vice/burgers, and buy a sausage roll from Gregg's in Stockport on the way home. Only some of this is true.

Baked, Derby

A bakery with café in Derby city centre. The bread is certainly worth another look....


..but the coffee was just ok. The flat white wasn't a flat white.


Soup, half a sandwich and slaw for about six quid. Half a sandwich isn't an unreasonable idea, but it seems a bit stingy to stick to it rigidly when it's cut from a very small loaf. a lovely nutty wholemeal loaf by the way, but nothing to write home about otherwise.

6/10

http://www.baked-derby.com/


The Swan, West Malling, Kent

Hi friends from work, this one's for you! The Swan was the dinner venue for our team meeting at the end of June. As with the previous dinner back in April we chose from the early bird set menu, but unlike on that occasion it was evident throughout that we'd gone for the budget option.


An asparagus starter was notable only for having hardly any asparagus in it. Three spears or thereabouts. Of the mains neither cooked to grey burgers nor a dry pork dish impressed much.


And Eton Mess for pudding was fine but had blueberries in it. Why put the only non-native berry in a dish that's supposed to show off the best of the English summer?

On a more positive note they have Curious Brew lager on draft, which is a wonderful beer. Beautifully clean, crisp and balanced. A glance at the website suggests the people in charge of the Swan and the people brewing Curious are one and the same; their core business being the Chapel Down Winery that arguably produces Britain's finest wines.

Maybe we were just unlucky at the Swan, the undoubted booze pedigree of the business might suggest they know a thing or two about food as well.

5/10

http://www.loveswan.co.uk/westmalling/bar/index.html


Smythson's Deli, Nottingham

A load of old rubbish.


The espresso in the coffee was good, potent yet smooth. Shame the milk was a mess. And it wasn't a flat white either (it was supposed to be, I'm not laying into a latte for not being a flat white).


A poor excuse for a sandwich. One word sums it up: meagre. I can't be arsed elaborating.

3/10

https://www.facebook.com/smythsons


Queen's Park Gelateria and Café, Chesterfield

This place is run by Frederick's, the dominant force in the ice cream world around these parts. Their vans are all over the place, which is no bad thing as their ice cream is good stuff.


They run the park caff in Chesterfield, which is also no bad thing. Instead of the tea and cakes set up you might expect in a park it's more of a pizza and ice cream and beer arrangement.


Pizza and ice cream and beer in the park? Don't mind if I do. A shared ham, pepperoni and mushroom (good chewy crust, surprisingly good pepperoni) and a double scoop pistachio sugar cone makes a very fine lunch. Pizzas 6-7 quid, ice creams 2-3.

7/10

http://www.fredericksicecreams.co.uk/page/queens-park-cafe-and-gelataria/


Harvest Moon Espresso Bar, Chester

A coffee that meets its description! About bloody time.


The flat white here was properly made and properly proportioned, so I'll excuse them serving it in a glass (maybe they've been to Manchester, they do that there).


I'm not really sure what to say about the food though. I can't work out what they were thinking. A not really a Reuben sandwich was still quite nice in spite of not really being a Reuben. The bread was top notch and it was as stacked as you could reasonably expect for the modest price tag.

Why smearing the inside of very good bread with cheap sunflower spread seemed like a good plan is beyond me, and why serving it with stale tortilla chips and a completely undressed salad of lollo rosso, bits of cucumber and carrot and some damp cous cous seemed like a good plan is even further beyond me.

6/10



Cool River Cafe, Matlock

A recent opening in Matlock, could this be the local coffee shop of my dreams?


In a word, no. A moist, walnut-packed wodge of carrot cake with a pleasingly cheesy icing was spot on, but the coffee was crap, the advertised flat white turning out to be an oversized bucket of weak latte. 

They're still finding their feet so I'll give this one another try. The savouries looked on a par with the cakes, but the coffee needs some serious work.

6/10 (8 for the cake, 4 for the coffee)



Monday, August 19, 2013

Mott Street and the Lens of Asian Food Experience


“…flavors are as safe and unthreatening as a night on the couch with a bong.”  - Mike Sula, Chicago Reader in an article titled “Playing it Safe at Mott Street”
“…the cooking equivalent of driving 45 in a 55 mph speed zone.” – Kevin Pang, Chicago Tribune


Chicago and other major cities have dozens of humble, first-generation-run Asian restaurants which, even though we Americans are welcome, are cooking food targeted mainly at fellow recent immigrants.  Because of this, and because so much of this food is cheap, there isn’t a food writer or aficionado in Chicago that hasn’t tried pungently fermented kimchi, scorchingly hot curry, and salads flavored with fishy funk. 

I think it’s through the lens of that experience that we end up with what I believe are misguided sentiments expressed in quotes such as the ones above.  Mott Street is “safe,” perhaps, when compared to the translated Thai-language menu at Sticky Rice.  But why compare it that instead of to restaurants with similar ambition, chef pedigree and price.? Are the dishes at Mott Street “safer” than those at Avec, La Sirena Clandestina, Le Bouchon or Vera?  Pang did compare Mott Street’s crab fried rice with Balena’s uni pasta, but that is even more bizarre and useless than comparing it to something one might find at TAC Quick.  Past experiences are valuable, but Mott Street is its own place and it would serve writers well to remove their lenses and evaluate the place on its own terms.

Some of the dishes at Mott Street are far from “safe”.  Grilled mackerel with incredible, crispy skin and moist flesh is served with head, tail and spine all attached – a bold decision that most restaurants with similar ambitions and customer bases would not make.  Wok-fried Gai Lan uses greens so intensely bitter that I’m sure many people refuse a second bite, along with oyster sauce that’s fishier and funkier than any version I can remember having.  Kimchi udon challenges safety-seeking palates with tiny bursts of fish roe and a delicious set of complementary garnishes.   I found all three of these dishes highly compelling. 
The kitchen at Mott street shows creativity too, which produces a winner and a loser.  The “stuffed cabbage” bears no resemblance to its moniker, but it is a fantastic combination of contrasting textures and bold flavors.  “Everything wings,” on the other hand, have a mess of bland seeds and a too-mild effort at tzatziki dipping sauce that would have paired poorly even had it been bolder.

I found the service at Mott Street welcoming and knowledgeable.  We had a drink and a snack on the nice patio and were made to feel like part of the crew.  In the dining room for dinner, everyone served us efficiently and with a smile, including members of management who stopped by a couple of times to check on things and solicit feedback.
We all have our own lenses through which we evaluate new restaurants.  Through mine, Mott Street is a winner.


Mott Street
(773) 687-9977
1401 N. Ashland Ave.
Chicago IL 60622
 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Six of the best salads of summer

It's petered out somewhat over the last fortnight, but at least we can't moan that there's been no summer at all this year. July was a corker, and although August has been cooler and damper so far it's hardly been a monsoon style washout like some of those in recent years, and for that we should be thankful.

The return of prolonged warmth for the first time in a while has given me a new found interest in all things salad-y. If it's cold (or possibly warm, but definitely not hot) and you can mix it up and bung it on a plate with the minimum of fuss, that's the dish for me.

Easy, colourful, refreshing, no hot ovens necessary, only grilled meat needed by way of accompaniment, these are my six favourite salads of the summer.


Pickled carrots and beets, mozzarella. A Nigel Slater idea this, and a very good one. Give strips of root veg a light pickling in lemon juice and wine vinegar, then serve with mozzarella and dress with olive oil and the pickling juices. Quite subtle this, mild and tangy with a great contrast in textures.


Peas, cucumber, feta, mint, spring onion. Lovely mix of gently sweet and sharp in this one. Any fresh, lactic cheese would do the job. Fresh peas are essential, don't use frozen.



Bread Salad. Read about it here. Still my favourite discovery of the summer.


Watermelon, feta and mint. Make sure you chill the melon before making it and you'll end up with the sweetest, juiciest salad imaginable. Save this for a genuinely hot day.



Peaches and Parma ham. Discounting the black pepper and olive oil this only has two ingredients so I'm not sure it really counts as a salad. Is it just a meal? An assemblage? Who cares when it tastes this good. The contrasts here are the thing, so make sure your fruit is chilled and your meat isn't. Cold, sweet peach flesh and warm, salty pig flesh is a match made in heaven.


Grilled onions and pomegranate. More of a relish than a full blown salad, but an excellent accompaniment to any sort of barbecued lamb. Toss a thinly sliced red onion in a teaspoon of sugar and the same of sunflower oil, then sweat down under a hot grill until you get some lovely caramelised bits. Throw in the pips and any juices from half a pomegranate. Sweet, sharp and slightly bitter, it cuts through fatty meat beautifully.

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Kid's FIFTY! Fifty Years Old!

If there's one thing I don't like it's adult haircuts on kids.  It bugs me so much more than it should.  Case in point, this little cutie whose parents wanted her to have the same hair cut as Nancy Grace.

Toddlers just don't look right to me with hairstyles for the 50+ crowd.  Maybe it's just me, who knows?

The one that's really been bugging me is the Humira commercial.  The mom has long curly hair and they show her braiding the other daughter's long hair but then there's the other daughter with the crazy middle aged bob.






Are you still showing your kids how to brush their teeth when they are seven years old?  I thought they'd get the hang of it at some point and do it one their own.  At least she's not screaming at her mom for washing her jeans.  I want to bunch that girl.*

*Really helping my foster future.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Updated News

Way on back in May Brian and I finally made a decision to pursue Foster/Adopt.  Do not get too excited just yet.  This is a long process and I'm not sure what's even going to happen.  It could have the potential to be outstanding but it could also be a lot of work for nothing.  I wasn't even going to mention it here but I've been thinking about it and I think it would be good to have a record.  Maybe someone will find me who wants information on what it's like.  I don't know, I wish I could find more information.  People get very hush-hush during the adoption process.

So to catch you up, let's give you a quick rundown to the present.  We met with a social worker at our house on May 14.  He answered any questions that we had and gave us an initial application.  He took some notes on us and told us he would get back with us about this class we have to take.  The application would have been pretty quick.  I had to list some financial stuff that took a little while but the hard part was we needed 3 references who weren't family members.  So we had to contact our friends to see if they would be our references.  This took a couple days to have returned phone calls and addresses and so forth.  Everyone was really happy to help.  I mailed off the application and a week later I got confirmation that the package was received and something was being sent to our references, just so you know, they check those out.  One June 10 we were told the class dates for this quarter and they unfortunately inferred with our annual vacation to the Adirondacks.  Bummer.  We had a whole extra quarter to wait for the class.

August 7 we had another meeting at our house.  This one we were given an outline for our Life Story and given forms to bring for fingerprinting, that we will probably do next week.  More questions were answered.  Looks like the next class in the beginning of October.  Waiting and more waiting.

I started working on my outline and jeez, it's really hard.  I'm (obviously) an over-sharer but I don't think the point here is to share every terrible thing that ever happened to you.  Maybe it is.  I feel like everyone has had bad things happen to them in their childhood.  Certainly no one's childhood was perfect?  Was it?  Brian's life isn't picture perfect but on paper his is much better than mine.  He has older siblings that he can use for most influential people and worst memories things like getting a broken leg.  I don't have that kind of stuff.  Every member of my family has made catastrophic errors in my upbringing.  I made it out fine, I'm a good person all and all, and relatively happy all things considered.  But how do I talk about who influenced me when I don't feel influenced by them and I'm not like any of them.  Oh sure, I have traits, lots of them, but fundamentally I would never do the things my parents have done, the decisions they have made, and the way they treated me.  I don't hold grunges, but I've got this stupid question and I have no idea how to answer it without looking like I had the worst childhood ever.  So anyway, I answered everything and am waiting to go back and revisit it where I can mold it into something prettier.

I mean is my childhood going to hold me back from being a mom?  How much does it influence the kind of mom I will be?  I don't feel like it would but why have questions like these?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Caudwell's Mill Café, Rowsley, Derbyshire

What a pleasant surprise to eat a meal, at a place chanced upon with no prior knowledge, where they've actually made an effort.

I'll spare you the lengthy rant about how eating in this country, brilliant though it certainly can be, is still rubbish if you don't plan ahead, about how you could travel the length and breadth of the country dining in wherever was obvious and looked nice, and not eat a single thing worth the money or calories. It's true though.

The particular speciality in this well-touristed part of the world is the 'doing just enough to get away with it café or tea room'. Your choice of mediocre panini served with a small pile of limp leaves? Six quid, thanks. 

So anyway, it's a refreshing change to end up somewhere like the café at Caudwell's Mill (the mill itself is worth a visit if like me, you like old industrial stuff with levers and pulleys and whatnot) where serving food that's worth bothering with is obviously of importance as well as keeping the bottom line ticking over.

They serve vegetarian food, which I only actually noticed after standing in the queue staring at the menu for at least five minutes. For me, it's always an indicator of appetising veggie food when the lack of meat isn't glaringly and instantly obvious.


As well as the usual sandwiches and jackets, there are daily specials served with salads. Homity pie was a cheesy, garlicky, comforting pile of goodness on a nutty wholemeal pastry base. In winter I could eat bowlfuls of this (probably swimming in a whole tin of beans), but it worked well as a summer dish too with all the associated greenery.

The salads were great; simple stuff done well. Amongst them a nice crunchy coleslaw; apple and beetroot; something vinegary with chickpeas; dressed leaves; and sweet carrot and corn given interest with seeds of some sort.

There are home made cakes galore for afters, the chocolate and coffee looked particularly good. We shared a slice of lemon which wasn't the best choice, being a bit overdone around the edges.

Service was quick and friendly, and you can sit by the window with a lovely view of the river that feeds the mill, then the Derbyshire countryside beyond. Meals are eight quid and a far better proposition than your aforementioned six pound panino, cakes £2-3 and a pot of tea a very reasonable £1.50. Worth a visit.

7/10

Caudwell's Mill
Rowsley
Matlock
DE4 2EB

http://www.caudwellsmillcraftcentre.co.uk/Thecafe.htm

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Our last day for 2013

We got off the trail   at NH25C/Warren NH. Sassafras's feet started hurting her and we decided enough was enough. We hiked 40 miles of New Hampshire and had a great time. This is the end of this chapter of Sassafras and Kaboose A.T. adventure for 2013. Sassafras says she still has lots of long distance hiking to do, but needs a break.

I plan to get out and hike some of my favorite sections of Maine in the next few months, but plan to do then on 2-4 day trips.

This trip has been amazing. thanks for all you interest and support. Kaboose





Saturday, August 3, 2013

2013 part 2 day 1 moose mountain shelter

Miles hikes 11


What a great day.  Mrs kaboose dropped us off at the Vermont/New Hampshire border and hiked with us for a little way in Hanover. We saw the beginning of the shrinners parade in town. I could tell we have been off the trail and was grateful for the mild terain. We meet Teacher and Snacktime from white blaze doing trail magic (thank).

When we hiked into the shelter we heard a loud yell, it was coach lou who we saw in Virginia.  He immediately took a picture of Sassafras and sent it to hikerboy who we started the trail with, to let him know we are back on the trail. In a few minutes Jacko from Australia walked in. We started on springer with jacko and his son the invisible man. What a small world. 

Pieminister, Manchester

What's the big deal with Pieminister? Am I alone in failing to see the attraction? As far as I can tell they seem to garner almost universal acclaim for what are some pretty average pies and some pretty good marketing.

I've eaten them at festivals before and not been impressed, but when I spotted the branch that's opened in Manchester I'd thought I'd give them another try.


Sadly my opinion hasn't changed. The moo pie (beef, pepper and ale) was just alright. The pastry, curiously limp and tasteless, seemed to have been made with durability in mind rather than flavour or texture. Anyone ever had an Aussie garage pie? A bit like that.

The filling was better, but still unremarkable. On the plus side there were large pieces of beef bound in a dark, marmitey gravy but on the down side there were only three of them and they were a bit chewy. Mushy peas were proper mushy peas but there weren't enough of them. The gravy was nice enough.

Still don't get it. You can easily find better in any number of pubs, bakeries and butchers. Six quid (I think, unless it was seven?) for pie, peas and gravy.

5/10

53 Church Street
Manchester
M4 1PD

http://www.pieminister.co.uk/eat-at/shops/

Sandwich Quest {Volume 3}

Some sandwiches I've eaten recently.

Hot Roast beef cob, Hambridges, Matlock


A traditional butcher's shop effort. Thinly sliced beef, overcooked to dessication then redeemed with a generous slop of dark, lustrous gravy. Satisfying and messy. Sturdier bread would be better, reducing the mess and turning less rapidly to mush. I'd have another though. £2.60.

Bread 5/10
Core filling 6/10
Secondary filling 3/5
Sauces/condiments 3/5
Value 3/5
Service 3/5
S-Factor 7/10

Total 30/50

Doner sandwich, Munich


German doner kebabs are ace. Even the cheapo ones are a far better proposition than their British counterparts. Better salad, better bread and better meat. We win on the chilli sauce front though, spice fiends that we are. About 3 euros. Maybe 4. Can't really remember.

Bread 7/10
Core filling 7/10
Secondary filling 3/5
Sauces/condiments 3/5
Value 4/5
Service 4/5
S-Factor 8/10

Total 36/50

Toasted cheese, Bold Street Coffee, Liverpool


An expertly crafted sandwich, I wrote about it here.

Bread 8/10
Core filling 6/10
Secondary filling 4/5
Sauces/condiments 3/5
Value 4/5
Service 4/5
S-Factor 8/10

Total 37/50

Roast ham and pea hummous, Smythson's Deli, Nottingham


Rubbish. There's nothing worse than somewhere that gets your hopes up then doesn't deliver. A ridiculously meagre effort for around four quid. Roast ham and pea hummous sounds good on paper, and the ingredients might have even been good,  but it's difficult to tell when they're present in such stingy quantities you can barely taste them.

And look at the accompanying crisps and salad. Limp and miniscule, a complete waste of time. If you're in the area there's a Subway next door.

Bread 6/10
Core filling 3/10
Secondary filling 2/5
Sauces/condiments 1/5
Value 1/5
Service 3/5
S-Factor 3/10

Total 19/50

Friday, August 2, 2013

A.T. 2013 part two

Sassafras's feet are better and she wants to get back on the trail. Tomorrow Mrs Kaboose will drop us off at the Vermont, New Hampshire border and we will attempt to hike north to Route 2 just before the Maine border. Sassafras calculated that since she has hiked from Route 2 on the A.T. all the way to the summit of Katahdin, she will have 312 miles left to complete the A.T. If all goes well we we can complete those miles next year. We did not complete a thru hike, but are happy with what we have accomplished.

We all want to thank everyone who help support Sassafras's hike for hunger. The last tally shows $1819 donated to the New Gloucester food bank in support of Sassafras's hike.