Happy 2017, my friends! My year started off inauspiciously with my phone suddenly not working, so I have to send it to LG to see if it’s salvageable. (At least my old Razr smartphone is functional so I’m not completely without a phone right now. Here’s hoping it can hang on until August when my upgrade is finally available.) The weather hasn’t helped much in that it’s been dreary and rainy for the past few days, and while I know we need the rain, it doesn’t help with the whole getting back in the swing of things all that much. Read More
When I was planning the menu for our big party a few weeks ago, I had it in my head that I would save a few of the dishes to make while people were there, if only to provide a bit of spectacle and give me a chance to retreat from everyone so I could focus on cooking. The problem with this idea is that inevitably everyone likes to gather in and around the kitchen, whether it’s open or not, and so that doesn’t leave for a ton of space in which you can maneuver. Fortunately it turned out that we had way more food than we bargained for and didn’t need either of these dishes, which worked out well for yours truly because I could never decide on a good time to prep them and as a result, I didn’t waste any food from either dish. Score! Read More
One of the aspects of Spanish food culture that I love is how they eat eggs at any time of day, with no need to cloak it in the really irritating “breakfast for dinner” trope.* The tortilla is perhaps the most famous way they cook eggs–check out Le culs en rows for her rather brilliant mini-tortillas that you can make in a muffin tin, by they way–but I’m convinced that the Spanish version of any egg preparation is the best. When we do have some eggs on Saturday mornings, Michael follows the technique that José Andrés calls for in his scrambled eggs with shallots and scallions recipe and they always are really creamy and tender because he makes sure they are still a little runny when he pulls the pan off of the heat. And then there is the baked egg variation, which I first enjoyed at La Tasqueta de Caldes in Caldes d’Estrac and I’ve been trying to recreate ever since.
New Year’s Eve is my favorite food holiday, full stop. We don’t have to follow any specific food traditions, and instead we can make a number of small bites that follow whatever whims we may have in mind that particular year. In reality, the only rules that we do have around the holiday are simple:
- No leaving the apartment, even to do this same thing at someone else’s house, because that never ends well.
- Loungey clothes are necessary, if not required.
- Games will be played
- Wine, especially bubbly wines, will be consumed.
When our friend W asked what our plans were, I explained that we were pretty rigid on the not-leaving-the-apartment thing (seriously, the last time we tried to do this on New Year’s Eve, I ended up with a stomach virus) but that they were welcome to join us. As soon as she said that they would love to come, out came the cookbooks to brainstorm some ideas on what to make. I may have also put the El Bulli episode of No Reservations on while I browsed, and ultimately came up with more ideas for this dinner than I did for the dinners I was supposed to be planning for…because that’s how things tend to go.
Besides: a meal of this scale requires several days of brainstorming, and I ended up finding some fine meals to have on Sunday and Monday shortly thereafter. So there, husband. Read More
Not long after our friend T moved out to Chicago, he sent me a link to a wine bar/cheese shop that wasn’t far from his apartment that he thought I’d like, all but promising to go there when I eventually paid him a visit. I hadn’t forgotten about the place in the intervening months that followed, so when I was finally able to head out to the Windy City a few weeks ago to finally see him, going to Pastoral (the wine/cheese shop) and its sister bistro next door Bar Pastoral was one of the few definitive plans I had for the trip, and perhaps the only disappointment I had was that I only was able to eat there once.
But oh, was that one time a memorable one!
T was completely wiped from a particularly grueling work week, so by the time we sat down at the bar he was more than happy to let me run the show. Since this was my first time there, I decided to cede control to our very helpful bartender, who recommended a nice selection of cheeses: a soft cheese made with water buffalo milk, a lovely blue cheese, and a firm cheese that I’m pretty sure was Manchego. (This bad food blogger forgot to write them all down. Boo.) Some slices of chorizo and prosciutto di San Daniele finished the plate, along with a little loaf of crusty bread and a nice glass of red wine. Even better was that each cheese came with its own specific garnish, ensuring that when you loaded up a piece of bread with your cheese of choice, you were going to get a complex, complete bite.
When I’m feeling particularly industrious during a weekend morning hate-watch of the Food Network, I’ll sit down with my cookbooks and start flagging recipes to try with Post-Its. Over time the notes get a little scraggly as the books are taken off and placed back on the shelf and splatters from other cooking exploits land on them, but I can never bring myself to remove them–especially if I haven’t made that recipe. The really decrepit ones taunt me the most, and I’ll get it in my head that there’s something fundamentally inaccessible about the recipe to prevent me from making it, because why else would I continue to avoid it? Read More
I’ve been slowly making my way through the Pedro Almodóvar library, and one thing I’ve found that even in his most straightforward of films is that he always manages to include at least one good WTF moment that changes the whole path of the narrative. There’s always this element of the unbelievable, but to spin an oft-quoted English saying, one must keep calm and trust Almodóvar because he always manages to work himself and his characters out of any overly odd plot twist. The twist in Talk to Her (Hable con ella) is one I won’t give away as it’s pretty disturbing, but just when you think a character suddenly becomes completely unlikeable, redemption comes about in a strange way.
Hable con ella is one of those films in which the titular women are not present; they are in the past, and they are potentially in the future, but they primarily exist as coma patients during most of the film. Instead, the story is told from the perspective of the men who love them and care for them: the clownish Benigno and the standoffish Marco. It’s a story of men trying to understand women they love: Benigno thinks he understands Alicia because he talks to her, and has been doing so in the four years she’s spent in a coma; Marco is seen as someone who was open and could not stop talking to Lydia during the idyllic period prior to her accident.
They talk because they think that is what a good lover does; the problem, of course, is that they were pretty horrible at listening to the women they loved. Read More