Friday, February 27, 2009

Rock TV

Current(ish) T.V. Theme Songs I Love:

How I Met Your Mother
I always make Andy listen to this and sing along with me. Also one of my favorite tv shows on right now.
The Sopranos

Makes me feel like a badass.
Kath & Kim
I'm still not sure I like this show too much but I absolutely love the song. I have no idea why. So catchy!
Premium channel shows always have kickass intros.
I'm no superman. True.
True Blood

Another HBO show with awesome credits. Hot.

Anything I'm missing?

Annoying... and a little creepy

Co-worker who's name I don't even know showing me through FOUR separate photo albums chronicling every day of last year's $20,000, put it on your credit card because you can't afford it for real, honeymoon cruise and vacation.

Another thing I don't need to know about? Your $300 sea bass dinner you didn't ask to see the menu price of or the $250 Murano glass bud vase and $40 glass ornament you bought in Italy.

Sorry, but I'm not amazed that you shot every photo with your "old Kodak, 4 mega pixel camera" because I'm so distracted by the giant, yellow date stamped in the lower right hand corner of every. single. picture.

Go. Away.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pass the lard, please

While growing up, I never thought of myself as sheltered. It was the Midwest, but I went to a public high school that had plenty of black people. Later on, I patted myself on the back for choosing to attend such a "diverse" institution instead of the local Catholic high schools.

When I first saw the word "Polak" written in a musty, old joke book at a local book fair, I had absolutely no idea what it meant. (Now that I think about it, who was screening these books? I probably could've found Mein Kampf if I looked hard enough.) I could tell that it was some sort of slur and an ugly word, but could not even fathom who it might refer to. Were there people who lived at the South Pole I didn't know about? And if there were, weren't they living in igloos and calling themselves Eskimos?

(Keep in mind that I was 7-years-old. It doesn't change the fact that I was stupid, but I hope you'll feel worse making fun of a kid.)

The idea that there were other cultures outside of Western Europe that didn't involve a change in skin color or facial features was, well, entirely foreign to me.

Fast forward 19 years and I'm embracing different cultures in the whitest, most American way possible. I'm eating their food.

This is what lead me and 5 friends to Szalas (pronounced Shah-wah's), an authentic Polish restaurant in the Archer Heights neighborhood of Chicago.

I grabbed the nearest, and coincidentally my favorite Polish person, Karolina to take along as our guide through the world of beet soup and copious amounts of meat.

The atmosphere is definitely my favorite part about the place. It's a huge A-frame building with giant, vaulted ceilings and a big rope attached to a bell you have to pull to get inside.

Um, yes, that is a water wheel and a GIANT STUFFED BEAR you see behind me. I told you. Awesome.

Karolina was also able to explain a lot of the clothes and tools that decorated the walls. For instance, did you know that the typical Polish Highlander's walking cane doubled as an axe? Me neither, but now I know I'll run faster if being chased by an angry, cane-wielding Pole.

Shit just got better when they brought our bread basket which included a goat cheese spread and a scoop of lard with bacon bits mixed in.

It actually wasn't as completely gross as it sounds, but I did only have the one bite I forced myself to try. I think that if I hadn't been told it was lard, it might've had a better chance. Lard. Now there's a word that can kill an appetite.

We decided to split some dishes, but Nikki went with the special which is basically every type of Polish meat on a plate.

She's delighted if you can't tell.

As the only experienced one at the table, Karolina decided to flex her culinary gross out muscles and ordered sauerkraut and mushroom pierogies followed up with the nastiest thing I've ever seen someone eat outside of old Survivor episodes.

Mmm, herring.

Luckily our food came before I could blow chunks.

Everything was basically meat dressed up in different sauce/potato/dumpling packages. The highlander's special was the all-around favorite (potato pancake topped with goulash). Did you know that goulash was an actual food? I thought it was one of those things like "porridge" that poor kids are always eating in fairy tales and Dickens' novels.

There were also some traditional Polish Highlander musicians to entertain us and the other two tables there on Valentine's Day weekend.

Shh. Don't tell that guy that his cello only has three strings and it's not just a really big guitar.

The verdict?

I loved the atmosphere and the company, but I don't see myself craving a beef roll, pickle soup or beet salad anytime soon.

If I had the chance to go back with this crew though, I'd take it. Stick to the beer and the goulash and you can't go wrong.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pizza Night

The worst weekend of my professional life had but one bright spot.

Fortunately, that bright spot included bacon.

Saturday night we had friends over for a pizza fest since we got our pizza stone and are now obsessed with making homemade pizza at every possible opportunity.

I was a little later than I'd thought getting home, so Andy actually prepared all the doughs for our contributions to the evening.

We started with two loaves (pieces?) of pizza bianca stolen mostly from Smitten Kitchen who got it from Jim Lahey. So simple is the recipe, though, that they were pretty much the same most places I looked.

We didn't follow the intricate baking instructions, recommended, and just turned the oven as high as it would go and slipped the prepared dough onto the smoldering pizza stone for an incredibly crunchy, chewy, amazingly simple flat bread. The first one came out a little crispier than the second, but still completely wonderful.

The pizza bianca was a great pairing with this antipasto salad and a giant glass of pinot noir.

Then began the construction of the mashed potato pizza. After making 12 potatoes worth of mashed red potatoes (because Emeril is obviously smoking creole crack when he writes his recipes and wants to see if people will actually follow his drug-induced instructions), we used maybe 3 to spread on the pizza crust. But really, who complains about leftover mashed potatoes? Moving on...

Andrea is one of my favorite people for bringing recipes like this (and pepperoni rolls) into my life. As I type this, I'm munching on some of the homemade graham crackers (!!I know!!) she left at our place. A cup of honey lemon green tea takes them to a whole new, graham-tastic level.

Back to the pizza. Next came some onions sauteed in olive oil.

Then came the ingredients that automatically elevate any recipe to a new level in my esteem, cheese and bacon. The combo of fontina and provolone cheese was melty, salty and smoky. Like any good chef, Andrea didn't skimp on the bacon.

This is what magic happens after 14 minutes in the oven.

I wasn't sure what to expect from a mashed potato pizza, but it really works. This isn't the pizza for any carb-cutters (freaks) out there, but it's a must-try for any pizza lover.

Enjoying the fruits of our labor.

Eric's sad face is due to how little pizza he has left.

I know how you feel, buddy. I just finished my last graham cracker.

Happy eating everyone!

Pizza Bianca
Makes two long pizzas

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary

1. Combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer (or food processor as we do) and slowly add 1 cup cold water. Mix on low speed until ingredients begin to combine, increase speed to medium-high, and continue to mix for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth, elastic, and cleanly pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl.

2. Place dough in an oiled bowl, and allow to rest for 2 to 4 hours until it has doubled in size. Split the dough into halves, and form each into a log. Place each log on a generously floured surface, and allow it to rest until the formed dough doubles in size again, at least 1 hour.

3. Put dough on a lightly floured, pizza paddle or rimless baking sheet. Dimple dough by pressing it down with your fingertips. Work the dough outward toward the edges of the peel until you reach your desired size and thickness, about 1/4 inch. Drizzle with remaining olive oil, rosemary and sprinkle with remaining salt.

4. Place a baking stone, in the oven. Set oven to 500ish degrees or as high as it will go (mine was 550). Slip the dough onto the baking stone and let bake for 5-7 minutes or until it's browned and beautifully bubbly. Keep an eye on it since it bakes fairly quickly and burns even faster if you wander off.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

5 Years...

And counting.

Five years ago today, after some Name That Tune and about 25 minutes into Good Will Hunting, I cornered Andy and made him mine.

I was looking through my photos to show us through the years, but considering neither of us has changed much, it wasn't very interesting, so instead, I'll tell a story.

When we first started living together, we worked different schedules and would leave notes for each other on the computer (because we couldn't afford pens or paper). Usually we'd just say hello, have a good day, etc., but every now and then, I'd get an MS Paint surprise.

I absolutely do know how lucky I am.

P.S. I love the attention to detail (the true yellowness of my hair and the sheer blueity of Andy's hat) and how we're both inexplicably pigeon-toed.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Soloman of Burritos

Got a Chipotle coupon in the mail for a free burrito at a new location that just opened down the street.

I think the right thing to do is use it before Andy gets back in town so we don't have to bother with splitting or fighting over which delicious salsas to slather on our customized, 3 pound burrito brick.

Just call me the peacemaker (and excuse the the jalapeno Tabasco sauce dribbling down my chin).

Anytime Valentine

Since Andy's been in Chicago for a trade show, we celebrated Valentine's Day early on Thursday with some sushi at Coast.

The main reason for choosing Coast was the fact that it's one of the few BYOB sushi restaurants in the city.

Nice cold sake to go with all those delicious fishies.

The rolls all filled our bellies with yummy rice and seafood goodness, but my favorites were the white dragon roll and the pieces of toro that tasted more like steak than fish.

I matched my outfit to the decor on purpose.

Maybe not, but I wanted to post a picture of me in a dress to prove that I do own one.

Andy got his present first.

Banana Chocolate Cream Pie for two from Hoosier Mama Pie Company.

I've never really liked pie in the past. I'd usually much rather have some ice cream. Consider me converted.

Best pie of my life And it looks like Andy liked it too.

Apparently Andy and I both have to same taste in gifts because I too, got something delicious.

TimTams! The most delicious cookie of Australia is apparently now available at our local grocery store. (You can tell I'm super psyched to an almost terrifying degree.)

I may or may not have done four TimTam Slams in a row yesterday. Instant happy.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

By the book Valentine

The guy in front of me at Trader Joe's had red roses, chocolate truffles, champagne and strawberries in his basket. *eye roll*

Friday, February 13, 2009

I should do a series...

Milo in funny hats.

Not sure which is worse: the fact that I dress my dog up in silly hats, or the fact that I own so many.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Who needs kids?

Loved this article for obvious reasons.

If I could afford a grand, wooded estate that I could stock full of innocent, overweight, slow-moving squirrels for my dogs to hunt down and rip to shreds, I'd do it in a second. I'm an animal lover, don't you get it? I feel tremendous guilt over not being able to give my doggy the sheer pleasure of sinking her sharp teeth into the warm hide of a live, wriggling squirrel. I ache for her not knowing the thrill that comes from that intoxicating, panicked screeching for mercy! My poor little honey lamb has never felt the spray of warm blood on her nose! Do you think that doesn't break my heart? What kind of a monster do you think I am?

Monday, February 9, 2009

It's melting!

I didn't think it was possible, but the temperature has risen above freezing in Chicago for the first time since the beginning of 2009.

The snow that at first seemed pretty, clean and white became gray, icy and hard. With no way to melt, snow just accumulated, turning sidewalks into icy deathtraps or concrete valleys flanked by man made, shovel-marked walls.

My car, abused by the artic air and salt spit from passing car tires will get a rest from the brush and scratching of my newly purchased ice scraper. When first moving to Chicago, I thought my handheld, squeegee on one side and 4 inch plastic scraper on the other would suffice against Midwestern winters. Bullshit.

Now I'm equipped with the biggest, deluxe brush, expandable handle scraper my local CVS store had to offer.

With the promise of melting snow and ice comes freedom. I might get up one morning and decide to try out one of the 20 pairs of shoes gathering dust in my closet while my new Columbia snow boots never leave their space outside my front door. My front hall closet might open and reveal the many lighter, more stylish coats rather than switching back and forth between my puffy, blue Columbia ski jacket and heaviest black leather option that passes for professional. We might be able to use our back door for taking down the recycling before the squirrels rip apart every cereal box and toilet paper tube without risking death on slippery stairs. Oh the possibilities!

The thing I'm looking forward to the most, the thing that makes my fingers shake with longing as I check one more time to make sure it wasn't a lie.

For the first time in weeks, my dog's face won't smell like pee.

Even though it's been cold, snowy and miserable in the city. People still take their four-legged friends for daily walks. It's on these walks that dogs tend to lift a leg or squat and mark their territory. (As far as Milo's concerned, he currently owns two entire blocks in Roscoe Village.)

Since the temperature has been cold enough to literally freeze tears on my face, this urine doesn't sink into the earth never to be bothered with again except for the occasional dead patch of grass. Not at all. If making yellow snow cones were a profitable business, I'm convinced my neighborhood would the the lead supplier for most of the Midwest.

Milo, like all dogs, loves the smell of urine. He has to sniff it out to make sure he knows who to kill for encroaching on his territory. I understand completely.

Since Milo's squished features look like he took a frying pan to the face at some point in his youth, sniffing frozen urine means diving in face first. All that cute, fuzzy, facial hair collects crystallized dog pee like some sick sort of velcro.

Thanks for the reprieve, mother nature. Here's to seeing the grass for the first time in over a month and not having to wash Milo's pee face twice a day!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Literary Flashback

Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo

That takes me back.

I just read that the illustrator of said book died.

My memory was flooded with images of Mrs. Levy sitting in the corner rocking chair of the library reading room at Springdale Elementary. Her completely stereotypical reading glasses perched on the end of her stereotypically pointed nose-spectacles clipped to a string of beads that wound round her wrinkled neck.

After every word on the page was dutifully recited, she would stretch the spine to give every cross-legged listener a good look at the illustrations. Front row seats were the best because in first grade, everyone knows the pictures are the best part.

Monday, February 2, 2009

It's a real disease... I swear!

The winter blues have settled in again.

Know what that means?