Passover is the best holiday ever. Its like thanksgiving with better food and cooler traditions. Exodus is a cool story. The seder glosses it over, but keeps the highlights. Lydia's Favorite Seder Rituals 1. The 4 cups of wine 2. The 4 questions, as asked by a 6 year old: Its been a long time since me or my sisters were that cute. 3. Singing the juvinile Amy Frank version of the beracha over bread in garish faux sincerity with the sisters 4. Dropping 10 drops of wine from the glass to signify the lessening of joy because of the 10 plagues upon Egypt 5. Making charoset 6. My dad pointing, asking "What is the meaning of this pesah?" 7. Making the traditional passover sandwich 8. Call/response religion without going to temple. 9. The traditional drinking and gagging over the Mad Dog I really do love being Jewish, and I am happy to not feel like I have to believe in god, or subscribe to it wholy in order to find meaning in its parts. One of my greatest ties to Judism is the food, duh. This passover my mother, grandmother, aunt and I made roast chicken with prunes and olives, brisket, mashed potatos, asparagus, charoset, maror, gefilte fish, and bananas foster. Yum.
April 2008 Archives
Scary Dinner: Passover Edition
Green Well Gastropub
Well, I am getting rather behind in my posting, because its been a week since I went to dinner at the Green Well Gastropub with my Grandmother and still no blog. Here we go! I have a certain amount of scorn for the word "gastropub." Its so faux european and it implies that people in Grand Rapids are goonish, naively waiting for someone to tell them what people in the "big cities" are doing. I think what the Green Well means is that they are a faux european restaurant with a wine list. Anyway, its a pleasant enough place, though too loud for my grandma, who is a little hard of hearing. It is kind of smooth all around with dark wood chairs and a scattering of high tables and large booths. It was my second time there, and I was again confused by the quality of service. I think that in a retaurant that seems to think so much of itself the training should be better. Instead there was too much interuption, a few times the server had to come back and ask us to repeat ourselves, and her knowlege base seemed limited. I ordered a glass of tempranillo and it came a good 5 minutes after everyone else got their drinks. My cousin's boyfriend, Craig, got an "oberita," a margarita made with Oberon. I was gleeful to hear that the bar was experimenting with beer cocktails and even more pleased when it was very tasty. Less tasty was our appetizer of a trio of dips. They were fine, but not anything new in the way of flavor or texture. For dinner I took the advice of Craig, who had eaten lunch there the day before, and got the hamburger with cheddar, no bacon. Craig had waxed rhapsodic about the 'best burger ever!" for twenty minutes, and in the interest of fair reporting I thought it necessary to give it a try. In fairness, the burger was really good. The bun was toothsome and very slightly crusty, and the burger itself was great, jucy to the point where I had dribbles down my chin. Craig and I were two matching, juice-dribbling moron twins, but I heard some complaints from the other corners of the table about entrees. Grumblings about too-sweet mushroom ravioli and macaroni and cheese that was "grievously misnamed." My impression was good, not great, maybe better for lunch.
Chicago Parts 3 & 4
I think that one of the best parts about being a houseguest, or having a houseguest, is that breakfast out is pretty much required. Most days I make myself toast, or more accurately, a faux-fast food breakfast sandwich that I should never admit to liking. (It has Kraft singles in it!) Houseguestdom, though, brings with it the responsibility of providing a the uncommon indulgence of breakfast treats I will never make for my single ass. Pancakes, french toast, waffles, pastry of any sort, frittatae, hell, I won't even make omlettes if left to my own devices. Though, part of that is that I just don't really love omlettes. In Chicago with Courtney there were plenty of options, but we decided to go to Treat, at 1616 N. Kedzie Ave. We were competely intrigued reading the online brunch menu, by the vaguely indian/global versions of traditional midwestern breakfast food. The restaurant was so nice and cheery. Their walls were yellow, and the waitress was that really adorable curly-haired type where she's too quiet and you have to ask her to repeat everything. I wanted coffee, but I am really stingy, and I couldn't justify paying $2.50 for a cup. Also, I have issues with caffiene and have to really budget my one cup a day. Courtney had Masala French Toast, and I ordered Pakora Pancakes, which was described as a cross between (surprise!) pakoras and pancakes. Dissapointingly they were three huge heavy chickpea-flour pancakes, which were dipped into a good cilantro chutney, and a boring tamarind chutney. The spicy fried mashed potato cake I got on the side was waaaay better. I wished I'd had two. Courtney's french toast was delish too, all fluffy and covered in good spices, and it came with "chai syrup" which I think was sugar syrup with caramel color and cardamom added. Whatever, it was tasty. I managed to eat almost one pancake before feeling all full and beaten, and asked the shyest waitress ever to box them up. I had this idea that I was going to eat them later, as some sort of pakora pancake cheese sandwich. Ahhh, hubris. The sandwich was never made, pancakes left to fuzz in Courtney's fridge. Post-breakfast we were both so full we drove off groaning, "oh god, we aren't eating any more all day!" I love the fact that Courntey has a car. I mean, yeah, Chicago has good public transportation, but when I am on one of my all-too-rare mini-breaks I don't want to fuss with waiting for buses. I want chauffer service. It was sunny and lovely, and Courtney and I almost went to the Lincoln Park Zoo, but there was no parking, and we ended up going back to Courtney's apartment and drinking strawberry daquiris on her stoop. We even had curly straws! Here is a picture of me and Courtney at the Party City:
Chicago Part 2
After dinner, mid-groan stuffed in the backseat of Courney's car we went on our way to Surprise for Real. We stopped for warm clothes, and drove to the Brownlands. Around downtown there is a huge open field, brushland. The story is that some middle-eastern businessman owns the land, and is waiting to develop it. It is bordered on one side by railroad tracks, on another by the river, and three sides form a panoramic view of downtown Chicago skyline. You're not supposed to be there, and sometimes dodging security guards is necessary. We drove most of the way into the field, Courtney blindfolded in the backseat, toward orange lights in the distance. We led her out of the car into a circle of masked faces. There was drumming and shrieking and people all around. It was chilly and clear. I walked to the river and there were geese. A railroad drawbridge permenantly up was silhouetted against the sky, and people kept talking about how they knew someone who climbed it.
Chicago Part 1
When I dragged myself out of bed on Saturday I was not a happy Lydia. I had put off the actual getting-up part for hours, and when I finally managed I had a hard time not getting back in. I shoved some clothes in a bag, dropped my keys off with ken, and started off to Chicago. My best friend Courtney's birthday is April 6, and there was a surprise party planned. The plan was for me to meet Courtney and two of her friends at Party City, but I got there way too early (time change) and hung out by the pinatas like a creeper for an hour. They showed up eventually, though, and post-surprise there was crepe-paper-buying and plastic monsters to be admired. Next up, dinner, but the thing about Chicago is that there are so many tasty places to eat that we ended up driving about for 45 minutes changing our minds about restaurants. Josephine and Courtney #2 decided on Ethiopian Diamond. I could probably have gotten more excited about something else, as ethiopian is something readily available in GR, and I had eaten of it recently, but hey, comparison is good. Ethiopia Diamond The menu was really intimidating, especially since at Little Africa I always just ask for "lunch for 1." I stuttered over ordering, but managed to piece together a "veggie combo" in league with the vegetarian, Josephine. Courtney and Courtney ordered meat options. We also ordered beet salad and chicken samusas to share, which came up quickly, luckily for me, who had only eaten a slice of anchovy pizza for breakfast that day. The samusas, the ethiopian version of fried stuff-in-a-dumpling, were fine, a little smaller than I was hoping, and one-dimensional in flavor. I had higher hopes for beet salad, but as much as I love beets, they could have been better served differently. The salad was good, but so uninspired, with greens and onions and a greasy oil dressing. It left me craving a lemon to squeeze on it. Dinner proper came on two huge metal platters covered in injera. Injera, for the uninitiated, is a flat, spongy bread made with teff flour, and similar, in my mind, to a cross between a crumpet and a pancake. It is decidedly sour. All ethiopian seems to be piles of mush which one eats by teating off peices of injera and scooping up niblets. The injera at Ethiopian Diamond was fantastic, the mush was not so much. It wasn't bad, it was just a little dull. I found nearly everything to be underspiced to the point of blandness. I kept switching dishes hoping to be blown away by any of it, but I wasn't. The tomato salad had no dressing, the cabbage and potato dish needed salt, and the yellowy beans just didn't taste like anything. Of course, I was incredibly hungry and am a glutton, so I ate an absurd amount of food and spent the rest of the night holding my stomach and goaning "oh, dear god why?"