June 2008 Archives

Public Displays of Gluttony
By Lydia on June 26, 2008 8:27 PM| | Comments (8)
I feel awkward eating at bars. I tend to feel that when I order food its like everyone knows that I am trying to get less drunk, which may or may not be true! Maybe I just didn't eat lunch! Maybe the food sounded really good! Maybe I need a damn column and its hard to get people to hang out with me without plying them with booze. Also, you have to deal with all the people attractively drinking looking at you eating. I am a messy eater. I eat too fast as well, something I picked up from my mother, who always finishes first and then says "I am such a good eater." Being a "good eater" is a virtue; clean your plate and do it without delay. I tend to finish my food long before anyone else, and typically I need to wash my hands afterward. And my face. And clean detritus from the area. When food is really good I made humming sounds. All this makes it rather embarrassing to eat in front of people, especially when those other people are not eating, instead doing really graceful things like shots and smoking cigarettes. I'd rather people didn' t know I have to eat, it seems weak somehow, and it implies other physical realities I'd rather pretend don't exist.

Basically, I'd like to apologize to Troy and Dan for eating a Logan's Alley Garbage Dog in front of them. I wouldn't have, but Troy is researching this Mega-Scary Hot Dog Article, and he thought it would be irrisponsible to not try out the ones at Logan's. He said, "Man I don't want to eat two of them, though." And I volunteered. My, oh my. Garbage dogs consist of dog on bun with pickle, jalepeno, hot sauce, cheese, chilli, and onion. I wrote the ingredients down, and Troy said he would just check the blog for the info when he writes the article. Lazy jerk.

Oh My Gosh, I ate the hell out of that hotdog. I ate it, but it was gross. It tasted like hot sauce, and thats about it, and the texture of the commercial hotdog is flaccid. Good thing the fries were great and the beer was better. 

The hotdogs were touted on the menu as the "ultimate hangover cure," but I would say this is patently untrue. The ultimate hangover cure is lying in bed watching America's Next Top Model and eating string cheese. 

My friend Courtney was in town for a job interview (whoo! move to GR!) and it seems like every time I see her we end up eating rib tips. For some reason I hadn't taken her to Sandmann's yet, and that's where we ended up on Wednesday. We walked there and I made the executive decision: one pound rib tips, half-pound fried cauliflower. Courtney was hella skeptical about the cauliflower, but I talked her into it. She got a diet coke, I waited to get a green kool-ade at Wings of Desire. We picked Becca up on the way back, and had a pleasant time eating piles of greasy meat on my floor. Fried cauliflower can be done really badly, it can be soggy and greasy, and wholy unlike the fantastic stuff from Sandmann. I wish I could deep fry. Think of the dumplings I could make.

Side note, keep your fingers crossed that Courtney gets the job, as we will be celebrating her move up from Chicago with a "Dumplings of the World" Party, to which you are all invited.

Books? What??
By Lydia on June 24, 2008 1:46 AM| | Comments (1)
Perhaps the worst part of drinking is not the next-day headache or the money spent, but the Kingsley Amis "metaphysical hangover," "that ineffable compound of depression, sadness (these two are not the same), anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future" that comes upon waking the next day. I have found that I feel this whether or not I do something stupid, and that there is no real cure except a purging spree of confessional story-telling. I blame the metaphysical hangover for my inability to forget transgressions gracefully, instead painting them all over town for comedic and self-reflective effect. 

Perhaps, though, the secret to avoiding this phenomenon is to wait out the effects of the booze, drinking water until it doesnt taste good, and reading novels until the pity party has passed. "The Book Thief" is a fantastic book. It is YA, but that's kind of how I like my fiction. It is set in Nazi Germany, and is told more or less from the perspective of a grim reaper character, but not in a hokey way. It is good to the point where it doesn't make you sit back and ponder how clever it is. There is a reason I don't review books.
Buffets: Pawning Off Bad Food on the Unaware
By Lydia on June 18, 2008 1:08 PM| | Comments (2)
I have worked in food service for many years. I know a lot of you have too. Maybe you were a dishwasher, or maybe you wait tables, or you slice bread for yuppies, or you make them coffee. We all know that there are secrets in every kitchen; things reused that you wouldn't tell the health inspector about, and people sneaking off to get high in the cardboard dumpster. Restaurants make daily specials out of food thats just about to go bad, and servers are told to push overstocked items. This is just how things work, everyone knows this, and you just make the choice to care or not. 

All my training, all my experience, has taught me to fear and distrust the buffet. It is a repository for glop that couldnt get sold and is on the point of expiration. It is thrown together and left to fester in chafing dishes 'til consumed by a clueless public ready to show how much they can eat, unaware that they cannot eat enough to get their "money's worth." 

Herm was struck by a curry craving last week, so I rode up to the Palace for take-away. They have a pretty good price, and I like that I can douse my food in raita for no extra charge. Also, they have these great big paper bags to put the food in, and though its certainly no picnic to balance on a 'ped on a windy day with 5 lbs of masala hanging on one wrist, at least I have a reasonable assurance of getting myself and my lunch back in one piece. Though I do have reccurant visions of myself splayed about the road, soaked in curry and blood. 

I got back to the store, and Herm and I did the happy food dance for a bit and then dug in. One more strike against Palace is their total lack of take-out silver. I used to get flatware from World Of Forks (aka Euclid) but now they don't open until 6, and the place across the street isn't that kind of nice. In any event, my long awaited point is that the damn korma was bad. I don't mean poorly seasoned, I mean turned. It was rotting. Few things are more dissapointing than a lunch that has gone off when you're hungry.

The worst part of this (besides the fact that instead of throwing the damn thing out straight away, I tried to eat around it,) is that I really liked the Palace, and this has thrown all my trust into question. I typically have a laid-back additude about what goes on in the kitchen, but this seems like blatant disregard not only for the health of the patrons, but also for simple good taste. Didn't anyone try the damn thing before they put it out? Its rather like they don't care if it tastes good! I'm unsure how long I will carry this skepticism, but I am currently soured (ha!) on the place.

We do a buffet of sorts at the Chez. Soup, salad and tapa for $7.95. Its usually pretty obvious what is about to reach that 7 day limit. Last Monday the soup was "Creamy Corn Chowder" or corn salsa reheated with cream. The "tapa" was Stuffed Poblano Peppers on Seasoned Potatos with Flank Steak and Mojo Pork. Seriously. Is it wierd that I was happy when no one ate it so I got to bring some home?
Happy Birthday to Me
By Lydia on June 13, 2008 11:35 PM| | Comments (7)

Well, its but a half-hour 'til my birthday. At least, it is if you are of the post-21 "birthday at midnight" mindset, and tonight maybe I am. I had planned some festivities, namely, getting drunk by myself at my house and seeing if I could eat a whole pizza. I would document the process, and it would be a kind of "fuck you" to age and wisdom and maturity. Then I actually got home from work and just felt tired and sad and oddly incapable.  I still ordered the pizza, but not out of any youthful sassiness, more from an understanding that I would not be mentally fit to make spaghetti. Also, I have run out of such stapes as cheese, bread, and pickles. 

I only ate one piece of pizza. I have a growing knot in my stomach that I am blaming on birthday anticipation, and its interfering with consumption. My birthdays have been pretty universally bad ever since the glory days of elementary school, when my parents got the snow cone machine and everyone in my class had to come to the party. Once in high school I tried to throw a party, a bonfire, and only two people came. They stayed for 15 minutes and then left to get high. Without me. On my 19th birthday I sat inside all day in a basement apartment, sick. The then-boyfriend gave me some sweaty daisies from the neighbor's yard. On my 21st I went out to a bar. Everyone was wasted except me. I bought myself a beer. Later that night, I had an incredibly confusing and heartbreaking encounter with a boy leading me to start my practice of deleting boy's numbers from my phone as soon as I get a crush.  What will tomorrow bring? I am predicting sitting alone crying into an ice-cream cake, softly singing "Happy Birthday To Me."

This is barely believable, but I think writing this made me break out in hives. Whatvevs. Maybe I am just allergic to this delicious Hard Cider i am drinking. It is from Scrumpys, and is organic and from Michigan. It is fairly sweet, with a syrupy viscosity and pleasing golden texture. Softly carbonated, it is a great special Birthday Beer.  See? Totally about food. I was just foolin' that whole time. 

To make my aforementioned birthday nightmare/expectation Not Come True, come to my party this evening at Nick Certa's. He lives on Eastern and Wealthy. Animal masks not required, but encouraged. Kidding. 

Dinner Party 2: Cuban
By Lydia on June 12, 2008 10:31 AM| | Comments (5)
There are times in the summer when I get a sudden, shocking feeling that evertything is right. This literally does not happen in the winter, a side effect of believing that the harshness outside is a personal message of doom from a wise and cruel universe. Predictably, I tend to feel that hopelessnes waning in spring, but its typically deep summer before an epiphanic moment of "rightness." Thank you to Karis Medina, whose vegan Cuban dinner conspired wiith some circumstances of temperature and breeze to make me feel that in early June. 

Wednesday night was part 2 of Movable Dinner Party, of which I have spoken. Basically we tried to have dinner at someone's house on Wednedsays. Its nice because it takes the impractical potluck aspect out, and theoretically, no one has to stress about anything more than once every while. Well, the system has stalled, mostly because only Karis and I have hosted, and because she is Leaving For A Very Long While. Damn her. 

Before she left, though she made a traditional Cuban dinner for some lucky atendees. First was the only gazpacho I have ever had that tasted like anything. It was really delicious, all cold and slightly spicy and with a bracing dose of garlic. She had chopped cilantro to sprinkle on top, and it looked beautiful together. One of the aspects of cooking I have never quite mastered is presentation, but Karis seems to have no issue with this. She had also made beans, rice, and some kind of soy curry-ish thing, whose name I didnt catch. What the hell is it with the soy curry? I want to eat it every day. You damn vegans have some absurdly tasty food.  She also fried up maduros and tostones. These are kind of like Plantains Two Ways. Maduros are the ripe ones, chunked and fried til dark, tostones are green plantains (platanos?) fried, mashed, and fried again. This made me wish I was actually in Cuba, where I believe we would have access to more perfect specimens of produce, but they were good. Anything twice fried has to be food, right?  There was riece pudding for dessert, but I was too full...

I brought the mojitos, as resident barmaid, and spent most of my night happily doing what I hate doing at work. Its all about who you're muddling for. Mojitos are simple, but you do need to do some prep. First, pick your mint. There is plenty growing wild around here, I suggest the Women's City Club on Lafeyette and Fulton, they have plenty along their fence. You will need a good-size pinch for each drink. Next, buy your limes. You will need 1/2 a lime for each drink. Assuming your drinks are roughly 12 oz. Using a juice cup? Use less. You will need simple syrup, also known as sugar syrup. Fill an empty fifth with sugar up to the top of the label, add boiling water, shake, done. Light rum and soda water finish out the ingredients.

Put 1 pinch mint in glass with 1/2 a lime, in slices. Muddle with a muddler, a pestle, the back of a spoon, or a sawed-off broom handle. Muddling well here is the key, you are trying to juice the limes and crush the mint as much as possible. It is possible to go overboard, but this will only make you look silly, and will not affect the quality of the drink. Next, add 1 oz. simple syrup, or to taste. Fill completely with ice. Add 2 oz rum. Top with soda. Stir with a fork to disperse mint. The drinks should be cloudy and greenish, with bits floating about waiting to get stuck in your teeth! Yum!
Chez Bayou
By Lydia on June 8, 2008 3:14 PM| | Comments (4)
Y'all should tell me if I am going overboard on posting.

I had a lunch date with the gentlemanly and witty Nick Certa. We had both been after people to go to the new cajun restaurant, so around noon we met up in Eastown for Chez Bayou. I must say, I was a little stunned walking inside. Some extreme renovations have turned the dirtiest club in GR into a faux Louisiana village, festooned with the colors of Mardi Gras and some reallyscary purple and green sequinned dolls.

Nick and I decided to sit in the fake sidewalk cafe section of the restaurant, in some rather nice intermittent skylight sunlight. I must say I felt silly sitting there, kind of like I had been caught in Epcot or something, and the air conditioning cut back on the "outside New Orleans" experience. The place is wholy contrived and middlingly absurd.

Middling as well was the food. An appetizer of breaded, deep-fried alligator morsels was among the best dishes. They were minimally greasy, with a crunchy outside and tender/chewy inside. A remoulade and a ranch sauce accompanied, both tasty, and both, as our server assured us "totally homemade." A shrimp po'boy wasnt as good, shrimp billed as breaded and fried seemed neither, and they lacked any apparent flavor, leaving me wondering exactly why I was eating the sanwich. I moved on to the jambalaya, but couldn't see much point in that either. The ham and andouille bits were good enough, but the rice seemed to be seasoned exclusively with salt and chilli powder, and it tasted like filler. 

Chez Bayou does have a full bar, and I was pleased to find beer local to Grand Rapids and New Orleans. Nick and I decided  to be scandalous and we each got a Blackened Voodoo Lager from Dixie. I had this beer at my cousins house just the night before, and loved it, and it was just as good in the afternoon. It was dark and malty, and totally exciting for a lager. It has a sweetness to it that reminds me of maple syrup, and I would definetyly recommend it for days too hot to drink hops. 

I was slightly dissapointed in Chez Bayou this time. I will be giving it a second chance, if only for the alligator, and because I need to try the crawfish ettouffee, but next time, I will sit at the bar and pretend I am not in a Grand Rapids joint trying really hard to be something its not.  
By Lydia on June 6, 2008 10:28 AM| | Comments (4)
Ive spoken before of the excitement I felt learning that Grapids is home now to two indian places, and two ethiopian. I must express my surprise that only after reaching this marker did we get our second sushi place within downtown! Sushi-Yama is located underneath Beaners(?) that garish-orange wannabe Starbucks on the corner of Pearl/Monroe/Monroe Center, don't go there expecting it to be something more than sushi in a basement. 

To be honest, I love this development. Morado is so pseudo-fine dining sushi, with the waitresses and the dark wood tables. Sushi-Yama looks more like a cafeteria, with flourescent lights, cheap tables and a counter barely the length of a bicycle. This is Tuesday Lunch Break sushi, and I am in favor of any push to have more sushi more times. Special occasions be damned. 

Herm and I each ordered a "Lunch Special C," billed as a California roll and 9pcs. sushi. When I picked it up, a Vertigo customer was working the register, and the guy making the sushi had made an extra roll for "Jake's friends." I like anytime I feel like a VIP.

I am not one of those people who say "it is impossible to find decent sushi in Michigan." Maybe my palate is less discerning than other people's (ok, this is a fact, and I have been known to eat peices of tuna at work that were deemed "too veiny" for use in seared tuna. I eat them raw, with my fingers.) So maybe I am not the expert on good vs ok vs bad sushi. That said, the lunch was great. I never expect to be full after eating sushi, but this was plenty of food. The sushi was one peice each of eel, tuna, salmon, shrimp, and that white fish. Now, this is not exactly nine peices, so I dont know why it was advertised as such, but it was delicious. Wasabi, soyu and pickled ginger accompanied, but I guess that is implied. 

I really hope sushi-yama makes it. You should all go see them. Prices seem fairly typical, rolls go from 4-10 depending on fanciness. Lunch Special C will run you ten bucks. Non-sushi fare is very limited, but they do say they have mochi!
Week in Review
By Lydia on June 5, 2008 10:27 AM| | Comments (1)
...and thank god its over. The days were filled with meals designed to make me not hungry, and nothing more. I ate an egg sandwich for breakfast every day, and a cheese sandwich for dinner every night. This is the food of depression. Kind of a mundane signal that I went out too often and indulged in confrontation. The only upside? Mid-day take-out with friends, rehashing the woes of the night before. 

Cuban Mojo Pork Melt
King of the Mezze (sorry, San Chez Cafe) melts. King of all San Chez food, including the fucking seared tuna. The woman who makes these is a miracle; food she cooks is just better than things other people cook, even if they are using the same recipe. I think she adds love.

This woman will yell at you if you get Mojo Pork on anything but sourdough, but she'll be really pissed if you try to get it on baguette. She says it ruins the sandwich for reasons of constuction and proper warming. Listen to Jen, she always knows best. Hope that she prepared the pork too, as the others dont massage the spices in as well, or give the marinating such care. Pork is roasted and shredded, and piled onto sourdough(!) with melted cheese, a fried egg, pickle slivers and horseradish alioli. It is then panini-pressed and served with a side of mojo to dip it in. You will need extra mojo. You will need extra napkins. You will need a box to take half of it home, which you will eat in front of tv watching the Anna Nicole Smith Show. 

Lady London
Grand Central Market makes really good sandwiches as well, and the boys there are really nice. They tend to undercharge me and they are always talking really excitedly about going on bike rides. The great thing about this sandwich is that it is so full of really good lunchmeat you can pull half of it out and eat it by itself without disturbing the taste of the sandwich proper! And eating lunchmeat with your hands is one of the Singular Joys of Being Not A Vegan.

Wierd Pita Thing That Probably Wasn't Delicious
I think I only ate this because I had a contact high from being in the same room as a bunch of people smoking, like, the biggest joint ever. Or spliff. Whatever you call it. Work parties are so so wierd. Suddenly finding yourself in a far-flung suburb looking at your boss's wife's chotchkes and being encouraged by people who daily make your life difficult to "take a hit of this" tends towards the surreal. Especially when the friend you came with passes out on the hammock and you are left inside contemplating just how obsessed your boss is with turtles. Thats when you decide that watching people get high might be an inviting throw-back to high school and the end result is you, smearing pita with hummous, Mother Earth Salad, Doritos and pickle relish and trying to hold up your end of the circumcision conversation all the while.

Please, someone come out to dinner with me today!