o__0

27.52: how do i explain?
The mind comparmentalizes a lot. At least mine does because really, if I thought about how everything works, how everything happens, and how everything comes together, my head might explode. Then life happens and it has this funny way of bringing all sorts of things front and center. Prior to this week, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about how my joints work, how I might die, or who my friends really are. Those things weigh on my mind a lot now.

Last week, I left the office earlier than usual (about 5:30) to get to an appointment. I walked my usual route to the train, crossed the street, and then got hit by a car. What happens after that is a bit of a blur. I spent a scary night in the ER. It was really hard that night not being close to my family or closest friends. I hate that over three years into being here that I still feel totally adrift, that something like that could happen to me and that no one here would notice or care. It really makes me wonder if I made the right decision to stay here? More than anything that night I wanted moral support, I wanted a hug, I wanted someone to tell me I’m going to be just fine.

In the end, I reached a friend (though I was uncomfortable admitting that I needed his help and I was scared out of my skull) and he pulled through in surprising ways. He showed up. He waited patiently. He made sure I got home and he even got me a late dinner. But there was no hug and there was no “you’re gonna be just fine” because well, as much as I love B, he’s just not that kinda guy. I came home and passed out. The next day I got on a plane and flew to DC. I had dinner with the President. The next day I turned 32. I had dinner with four amazing ladies. The day after that I flew back to Chicago and I went right back to work. I came home and collapsed again. Don’t ask me how I did it? I think it was some combination of shock, sheer grit and determination, and me figuring that this might be my only chance ever to see the President of the United States.

I know I should be grateful that I’m alive. I know it could’ve been so much worse. But you know what? I’m tired. I’m hurting. I’m black and blue and I can’t really bend my knees. And frankly, I’m a little pissed off because (and I don’t mean to sound whiny) this past year has sucked a BIG FAT ONE and ending the year getting hit by a car frankly felt like getting kicked when I’m down.

I’m too scared now to think about what 32 might bring. I have to think it will beat 31. Mostly I hope it doesn’t kill me.

Advertisements

ginger+cream

ginger+cream
It’s that time of year again. We turn our clocks back. The sun sets before 5 and I hunker down for six months of winter. My thoughts turn to baking, nostalgia eating, and comfort foods. Most weekends once cooler weather hits, if I have no particular place to go in the morning, I try to bake something to go with my morning coffee. The trick is find something simple, straightforward, and (relatively) quick because drawn out and complicated before morning coffee is just not a good idea. Scones are nice because they have some substance and aren’t club-you-over-the-head sweet. The only problem is it’s just me and what am I gonna do with 10-12 scones when I really want 1 or 2. Scones, unlike many baked goods, go downhill fast. Out of the oven they are nice and delicate. Later in the day they are high calorie hockey pucks.

America’s Test Kitchen to the rescue. (One of the few major food mags/recipe sites that puts out recipes scaled for 1-2 people.) I had a scaled down version of cream+currant scones from one of their magazines I picked up this summer that I’d been meaning to try out. I neither had nor like dried currants so my mind got to working. I thought back to some ginger scones I was overly fond of as a college student in DC and started rummaging through the cupboards for ingredients. Half an hour later, I had four warm, delicate scones. Just the right number. Just the right texture. Totally scratched my scone itch. (Don’t be put off by the amount of cream or butter in this recipe. It’s the difference between a light and fluffy scone and leaden, dense flour brick. The key is not to overmix.)

Ginger Cream Scones
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, reminiscent of Teaism’s Ginger Scones

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces and chilled
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoon turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pulse flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and ginger in food processor to evenly combine (about 3 pulses). Scatter butter evenly over top of flour mixture and pulse until it resembles coarse cornmeal with slightly larger butter lumps (about 6 pulses). Transfer mixture to bowl and stir in crystallized ginger. Stir in cream with rubber spatula until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.

Turn dough and any floury bits onto lightly floured surface and knead until rough, slightly sticky ball forms, about 5-10 seconds. Shape into 5-inch disk about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into four wedges using sharp knife or pastry scraper.

Place wedges of dough on baking sheet. Brush lightly with heavy cream and dust with turbinado sugar. Bake until tops are light golden brown, 18-22 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Transfer scones to wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

from the streets

IMG_8687
It’s been impressed upon me that I’ve really let this space go, that I now have a ludicrous backlog of restaurant photos of meals going back many months. Alas, that pesky thing I have called a “job” is sorta getting in the way. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I’ve just returned from my *third* trip to Next (Childhood, at my current blog rate, expect post to follow in a few months) and it’s *that* visit that finally prompted me to post about my *second* trip nearly two months ago. And let’s not talk about the fact that I never told you about my second dinner at Alinea even though that was over a year ago. (Warning: this is a VERY photo heavy post.)

IMG_8694
IMG_8716
IMG_8701
IMG_8699
The second iteration of Next took us to Thailand and we sprang for the kitchen table (six people with a fabulous view straight into the kitchen). Ticket sales were, dare I say, INSANE so I can’t believe we even got a table. It was fun to see things unfolding both at the table and in the kitchen. We had the *best* view!

IMG_8702
IMG_8703
IMG_8707
One:
Like Paris 1906, we kicked off the meal with a fun selection of small bites: roasted banana, prawn cake, sweet shrimp, fermented sausage, and steamed bun. Most of us also opted for the non-alcoholic pairings and this course came with a blend of guava+mango+papaya.

IMG_8709
IMG_8708
Two: They brought a box of hot coals to the table and we roasted skewers of chicken hearts, strawberries, and squid. Presentation a plus, the actual food part was sorta meh.

IMG_8713
IMG_8719
IMG_8722
IMG_8725
Three: the main event, papaya salad made table side by the chef himself, Dave Beran. (Part of why one springs for the kitchen table.)
Drink pairing: green tea+jasmine flowers.
I confess that it was a bit nerve wracking to see the Chef casually tossing a papaya while hacking away at it with a large knife. He, however, seem unphased. Seriously. This guy is all business:
IMG_8714
IMG_8734
Four: A deconstructed pad thai–rice noodles, tamarind, and peanuts.
Drink pairing: pear Blis+shrub.

IMG_8742
IMG_8744
IMG_8743
Five: hot and sour broth+pork belly+tomato+ginger. Rich and savory, the broth was divine.
Drink pairing: chrysanthemum+lemongrass+lychee.

IMG_8745
IMG_8747
Six: a variety of Thai condiments with little baskets of sticky rice.
*chili+shallot+garlic
*salted duck egg+green mango+white radish
*banana pepper+cucumber+chili+dried anchovy
*tamarind+garlic+mint leaf
*pickles

IMG_8751
Seven: catfish+caramel sauce+celery+coriander root.
Drink pairing: carrot, ginger, orange.

IMG_8755
Eight: beef cheek+curry+peanut+nutmeg+kaffir lime.
Drink pairing: hibiscus+mangosteen+thai pepper.
This one was *rich* and by this point I was pretty darn close to being STUFFED.

IMG_8774
IMG_8757
IMG_8756
IMG_8759
IMG_8760
IMG_8758
Nine: watermelon+lemongrass.
Ten: coconut+corn+egg+licorice.
Drink pairing: corn+pineapple.
Why yes, there’s more. Fortunately, this dessert was light and refreshing and how can you beat the presentation? People smashing coconuts at the table? Good times.

IMG_8765
IMG_8770
Eleven: dragon fruit+rose.
Drink pairing: cucumber+vichy catalan.
Another refreshing course and my first experience with dragon fruit (it was something between a kiwi and a watermelon). They brought all the ladies roses. 🙂

IMG_8771
Twelve: thai iced tea to go (rooibos+palm sugar+milk). A delicious juicebox of sorts to take with us. At this point I was admittedly too stuffed to fully appreciate it.

IMG_8772
IMG_8773
IMG_8741
IMG_8738
We rounded out the night with a stop into the kitchen to see how service and plating works. By that point Grant Achatz had left the kitchen but earlier I managed to catch some glimpses of him checking things out at Next.

I’m a bit conflicted about this meal. Don’t get me wrong. It was a fabulously fun experience. The food was all around good but I couldn’t help but feel that I probably would’ve enjoyed eating real Thai street food (chowing down hunched over outside a stinky, cramped stall) at a fraction of the cost a lot more. Clearly that didn’t stop me from going back (ahem, third trip to Next tonight to check out the Childhood menu). I need to talk to Next about making a frequent diners card.

Next Restaurant: 953 West Fulton Market

give the story time to unfold

all good things
I’m not the most patient person, one of the less pleasant traits I inherited from my chronically impatient father. So I’ve always been surprised that I can wait days for the perfect loaf of bread, weeks for a sock to come together, months for a quilt. I enjoy the sense of accomplishment at the end seeing a finished object but I also enjoy the process. For some reason I’ve never been able to transfer that patience to other areas of my life. What I wouldn’t give to exhibit that same calm watching the rest of my life unfold. Perhaps that is why I cling to these little bits of craft all the more because at least in this one arena of life I feel a sureness, a steadiness.

I probably should be cleaning or cooking or tending to my files/life but instead, I think I’ll spend the afternoon enjoying the sun, the new minky throw I made for my couch, a little sock knitting and think about this piece on patience by Natalie Chanin. Hope you’re enjoying your weekend!

circadian rhythms

LaReine
LaReine
I fear that I may never tell you about my amazing west coast vacation (now a distant memory) or blog about all the crazy meals I’ve had in 2011. It’s amazing how much one’s life can change in just a few weeks and I find myself still reeling from everything that transpired this summer. The changes gave way to much sadness and angst and then exhaustion. All my creative urges were crushed. It’s taken me a while to return to my familiar rhythms–cooking, baking, crafting. Finally, weeks after the rubble has settled, I have started feel a little bit like my old self. Knitting was what brought me back, what brought me out of my creative malaise. And I laugh because I think of how I came to knitting nearly eight years ago–teaching myself using a Knitting for Dummies book in the aftermath of the breakup of my first serious relationship. How funny that I find myself returning to the old and familiar over and over again.

Speaking of familiar, if you think you’ve seen this finished object before it’s because I’ve knitted this before. The last one was a Christmas gift for my mother. This one I knit for myself using Shalimar Zoe Sock Yarn in the aptly named black truffle. It blocked beautifully and I’m looking forward to putting it to good use as the temps drop. I rarely repeat a pattern but I loved the first one so much I couldn’t help but knit one for myself. (Hat tip to my talented friend Angela for putting together such a gorgeous, easy to follow pattern.)

I’ve made a concerted effort to go through old unfinished projects and either finish them or ax them. This one felt great to finish.

everything else is secondary


I’ve been meaning to catch up with y’all here but life continues to march along at a punishing pace. But I thought I’d duck in briefly to share this video because it’s got me thinking about all sorts of things. Work, life, love, balance, etc. I’m sure many of you have seen it already and it’s probably news to none of you that this week the world lost a very special person. Still, I hope you watch it and feel as inspired as I did when I watched it.

countless

surrender
Hello friends! I didn’t mean to be gone so long but to say that the past month has been all consuming is a bit of an understatement. Over a couple of weeks, I racked up some serious mileage (ORD –> SFO –> SEA –> PDX –> SEA –> ORD), a nice stack of credit card bills, and a couple of pounds. I’ve eaten more nice, spendy meals than any person ought to. I saw my family and several of my nearest and dearest friends. I slept in whenever possible. It was great. Really, really great. And I needed it badly. Probably more so than any vacation in my life.

I have a million photos to sift through and many a meal to tell you about. The NewJob, as expected, is taking some getting used to but once I get settled, I promise I’ll be back.