Monday, August 30, 2010

Adventures With Andy: The Synopsis

So on Thursday, Alex had to work, but Jamie and Andy and I went to the American Museum of Natural History! None of us had ever been before. It has some great exhibits, including a gem collection; it made me want expensive jewelry! But then the fossils made me want to be a dinosaur, so I wouldn't take that too seriously.

Anyway, the point is, gems are pretty, and also dinosaurs are really cool, and also mammoths were effing enormous, and also there used to exist hyenas bigger than tigers, and also human evolution was kind of a mish-mash of failed branches but also progress, and also, gift shop! The end.

In between the gems and the dinosaurs, we left the museum for lunch. Hot-dog stand! I had a delicious "Philly cheese-steak" sandwich. Then we craved ice cream (how unusual), so we walked out to Broadway to a gelato shop, where we shared a scoop of bitter, delicious dark chocolate and a scoop of fragrant cinnamon with white chocolate chips. Yum! Also, we stopped at Lush, which is a skin-care type store, which Edlyn showed me in Boston a couple years ago, and which I knew Jamie would love. Now she kind of wants to work there.

Also, Alex gave his two weeks' notice! Yay.

That was Thursday!

On Friday, the four of us went to Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn, which is the best pizza ever. I had been there once before, with Alex and Tom, and had my mind blown; before that, it had been recommended to me by some people (I don't remember who) who went on Satellite with me and had gone there because they had read about it somewhere, I think. Anyway, it is this little pizza place surrounded by a bunch of Hasids, and the pizza has been made by the same guy for like 30 years, and he is the only one who is allowed to make it; even though he has taught his kids how to make pizza, he thinks they are crappy at it and does not permit them to do so in the shop. We all split the Di Fara Special Pie, which I guess is just the kind of pizza he likes making the best, and which has sausage and bell peppers and fresh basil cut on top at the end, and is unbelievably delicious.

Anyway, we played GHOST for an hour while waiting for the pizza, and Alex won because I misspelled "jodhpur," then wolfed down the pizza in about 7 minutes, stepped briefly into a Hasidic chocolate shop selling Shabbes candles filled with honey (huh?), got on the B train going the wrong direction, got on an N train going the right direction, transferred back to the B train going the right direction, and went up to Spring Street, where we ate at Rice to Riches, a kind of snobby and intimidating and ridiculous but also pretty darn tasty rice pudding shop, for dessert. We shared four different flavors (chocolate, cinnamon, cheesecake, and vanilla), while standing, because the bar at this place has no chairs, because it is snobby and ridiculous. But I enjoyed myself nonetheless.

Then we went with Jamie to pick up her script for Eleemosynary, and then went back to the apartment, where I made banana walnut chocolate chip bread, and also whole wheat bread for Alex to make sandwiches out of for his lunches, because store-bought bread is filled with corn, and played Mao for a couple hours. I love that game.

That was Friday!

On Saturday, Jamie left for Singapore and Alex had to work (wow, one of those things is a lot more exciting than the other), so Andy and I went to the Met! Yay, the Met! I like it there. We wandered around, spent at least an hour in the musical instruments exhibit, passed more quickly through the Modern Art, went up the five flights of stairs to the enormous bamboo sculpture on the roof, went back down the five flights of stairs, browsed the gift shop, and then headed out after what was maybe three hours in total.

Once we left the Met, we walked down along the park to Rock Center to visit Alex at work for a few minutes, and then headed back to Hotel California, where we were antisocial until Alex got home.

That was Saturday!

On Sunday, I finished Mockingjay in the morning. Holy crap! Holy crap! Holy crap! Suzanne Collins, who are you and why are you so intense?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! That book was so much more intense than the first two, and that is saying a lot. What a book.

And then Alex and Andy and I went to have a picnic in Central Park! We stopped at a grocery and got pita chips and hummus and goat cheese and ruggelach (which in the end I forgot were in the bag and threw out, but that's ok, because what was I thinking? Ruggelach are not delicious), and then after getting off the 2 at 96th because of construction and wandering through the North Woods and around the Harlem Meer to the north end of the park, stopped at a deli (the Central Park Deli and Grocery at 2 Malcolm X Blvd., to be exact) and got delicious sandwiches, and ate them just inside the north wall of the park, on the grass in the shade of a tree.

It was so good.

Then we walked the entire length of the park, and at Andy's request I told him all about why the Conservancy is the devil, blah blah, Jackie Onasses Reservoir, some breaks to sit down on a bench and rest my throbbing feet, Belvedere Castle, statues, 59th St. On to Dylan's, a candy shop Kat told Andy he simply must investigate, over at 60th and 3rd. Overpriced but very colorful. Seeing the fudge on the bottom floor made me want to made fudge ice cream, but the fudge was expensive and too sweet, and I was too tired to go looking for other fudge shops. Tom met us at Dylan's; we all took the 7 back to Hotel CA; the boys played video games for several hours; I did not. I ate leftover cappuchino chip ice cream and maple pecan ice cream and fooled around on my computer in my bedroom. It was nice. Then I supervised Alex making peanut butter ice cream batter. Yay! Good night.

Today, Alex opened at work; he should be home soon, actually. Andy and I decided to make fudge instead of going looking for it. It worked reasonably well, except that the candy thermometer Tom got me to replace the one he broke only goes up to 220 degrees, and even fudge, which is one of the softest candies, has to get up to 235 degrees. So we tried to figure out when it had reached the soft ball stage, rather than going by temperature, and we thought it was about time even though it still wasn't really forming a ball, and Andy didn't want to risk having the sugar recrystallize by letting it get too hot, so we took it off the heat. Let it cool to 110 degrees like supposed to, added butter and vanilla, stirred for 25 minutes until it became clear that it was not going to get dull and lighter and stiff, the way it is supposed too, probably because we did not cook it to hot enough. But we poured it into a buttered 8x8 pan and stuck it in the fridge, and we will see if it solidifies at all! But anyway, it is delicious, and I think it will swirl well into the peanut butter ice cream batter as it freezes.

Later today, Philip Menchaca and the other camp people should get here on the bus (I mention Philip in particular, because he will be staying with us for two nights), and maybe I, and maybe Andy and Alex too, although I haven't asked them yet, will go out with them, which would be fun.

The end!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Andy's Mints

Andy Ball is here! Yay, Andy!

Alex was working when Andy got in yesterday afternoon, so I went and met him at La Guardia. Took the 7 to 82nd and picked up the Q33, as per usual - a 45 minute trip.

Or it's supposed to be, anyway.

Except when the bus gets stuck behind what turns out to be four ambulances and a fire truck, lights all flashing, parked in a line along a one-lane, double-parked residential street for at least fifteen minutes. I say "at least," because after fifteen minutes and no sign of improvement, and Andy's plane already at the gate, several other passengers and I disembarked and headed out to Northern Blvd. to catch a cab. Which is difficult in Queens! We finally - four of us all headed to LGA - piled into one of the black cabs, the first to come along. And then the guy said he wouldn't take card (I thought all cabs in NYC are required to take cards? Maybe not the black kind), and I didn't have any cash on me, because I just expected to be on the bus, and I had been in a hurry leaving and did not think to take a twenty just in case, as I usually do. But the kind middle-aged woman sitting next to me paid my share and, when I thanked her, and felt like a big lug, said to me, "anytime! no worries, anytime. Just pay it forward!" Man, nobody better tell me anymore that New Yorkers are mean.

So anyway, I got to La Guardia and found Andy, who had only been waiting for five minutes even though I was half an hour late, because it took them a long time to disembark from the plane. So that worked out. We took a yellowcab home, which was delightful, although the guy kind of gave us the runaround and drove circuitously through the neighborhood towards the end, and so I gave him a lousy tip.

Jamie got home from her Eleemosynary audition (she found out today that she got the part! Yay Jamie!), and then Alex got home from work (actually, other way around! Alex got home first. But I don't feel like deleting and retyping, so you are stuck with this extra parenthetical. And probably you don't notice it at all, among so many other sets of parentheses. They are a bad habit. I apologize), and then we got Thai food at a dramatically designed restaurant at 47th and Queens Blvd., went back home, and hung out until very late and had a lovely time!

This morning we got up later than we meant to (the plan was 9:30; the reality was 10:30, no surprises there); all showered; I proved that I am, in fact, my father, by delightedly standing at the stove for half an hour making pancakes on two frying pans at a time; everyone enjoyed the pancakes; and then we left for the city! Andy has never been to New York before, and is interested in everything. So we started in Times Square, went in a couple of the stores at his request, showed him the TKTS booth, and then began walking down Broadway.

All along Broadway this month - the parts of it that are set aside for lounging and pedestrian use these days (one of the few good things Bloomberg has done for this town, in my opinion) - are mannequins dressed in fashionable and fascinating garments made from bizarre materials, such as seashells, shower curtains, and bricks; they made a nice art show as we walked. We stopped for a few minutes in Madison Square Park and chatted about baby pigeons, undermining of public sector unions, and the Shake Shack, not to imply that these things are connected, and then proceeded down to Union Square, where we ate at - can you guess? - Chocolate by the Bald Man!

Yay! Delicious! So delicious! I had the mac and cheese. I never get mac and cheese at restaurants, even though I always want to, because it is always wildly disappointing. This was not. I still like the kind my family makes better, but this was pretty delicious. Also, it had bacon in it. Jamie and Andy shared a turkey burger, and Alex had a B.A.L.T.; I ate some of all of their waffle fries in super delicious sauce; everyone drank Jamie's and my respective peanut butter chocolate and hazelnut chocolate milkshakes, and we shared chocolate fondue for dessert. I effing love that place. The main dishes sound so mundane, and yet they are so transcendent! And don't even get me started on the heaven that comes in those Alice cups.

It is designed to look like a Cheshire Cat smile
when you turn it around!

Anyway, then we dropped Jamie off where she was seeing a concert in Tribeca, went back to the apartment, watched She's the Man, which is a great movie that I love even though Alex and Andy made ceaseless fun of it (Lissa would have watched it and appreciated it with me, so there), and I made after-dinner-mint ice cream (vanilla with Andes mints in it; good, but not all it's cracked up to be; I made it at Andy's request; next time I'll stick to chocolate peanut butter; or possibly bacon ice cream, which no one else is excited about, but which I can't wait to try my hand at; but anyway, it is good to try new kinds, so I am glad I made this kind anyway; also, it might have been less good because I ran out of cream and had to use half and half), and no I will go to bed!

Clearly, I misled you all in my last post about what would be in this post; I have written about none of the things I promised. Maybe next time! Good night :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

In Which I Do Productive Things, Eat Delicious Things, and Tantalize You with Promises of More Excitement to Come

Hello! It has been a while! This is because I was at camp for two months, where I worked super intensely and also had limited internet and no computer. It turns out it actually would have been really useful to have my computer, and almost everyone else on the theatre staff had theirs, but too bad. Sometimes it is nice to be disconnected. But also not nice! Because I cannot update you all with my glorious adventures! At any rate, I am back, and I will bring my computer to my next job.

Here are how things have gone since I got back:

I got home at 11:30 PM two weeks ago. Alex met me at the 40th St. stop and walked me home, where he had a pan of brownies waiting for me! He is great. He had to go to work the next day, but during that time I opened the present he left me, which was a book called Strange Maps, which is exactly what it sounds like, and very exciting. And then the next day we made chicken fajitas, which had been marinating for two and a half days and were super delicious! All in all, an excellent return.

For my first week back I was very productive. I was kind of still in work mode, and I had an enormous list of things to do, including such entries as the following:

buy desk, TV table, dresser, bookshelf
sell furniture that Jen left, including awkward dressers and inconvenient desk
buy umbrella for Alex because I lost his at camp
make sourdough starter
unpack/organize - once furniture is workable!
make sure I will get copies of dvds of shows I worked on at camp
research music director work
advertise accompaniment/transcribing
paint bedroom
write letters
figure out what to do for a workshop for Vancouver

and many other things which I have forgotten because I got them done and then threw out the list. But you get the idea!

Anyway, my advertising needs have been minimized for now, because I got a new job already! So that is nice. Cross that stuff off the list; add new stuff involving getting to Maine next month (where I will be working! As a music director! For Pirates of Penzance! And Alex will be starring! How great is this? More about this new job later), filling out contract, determining what to pack, and getting a subletter for September.

So probably five days out of my first seven back were involved with furniture. One afternoon Alex and I picked up the new dining room table (to replace the one Jen took) and two chairs from an old Jewish guy in Forest Hills and carried it back on the subway; one evening we spent a couple hours at IKEA picking out a bookshelf for everyone (to replace the one Jen took) and a laptop table and desk and set of drawers for me (to replace other stuff, some of which Jen took); one morning we picked up a couch from a woman down in Park Slope (Alex thought we were going to take that on the subway, but he was incorrect); one day we picked up a little dresser to put the TV on (to replace the awkward dresser on which it currently sits, which we have yet to sell) from some artists in Rego Park and carried it across town on the subway; and one day we picked up two solid wood dressers from someone down on Avenue M, which is, like, practically to Coney Island. Fortunately, we had a dolly for that trip. I say fortunately because if there is anything we learned last week, it is that transporting furniture across town on the subway makes me incredibly irritable. Good thing we're done with that. Now we just have to get rid of the extra furniture cluttering up the place, and paint the bedroom, and it will be glorious in here! Well, also it will help if the sporadic cockroach sightings go away. But that is a whole different issue, and one that is thoroughly upsetting, not to mention somewhat embarrassing to me, as it involves standing on toilets, so we will not discuss it.

Anyway, besides finishing stuff on my list, here is what I have been doing since I got back:

1. Making ice cream, and
2. Making sourdough bread.

Much more fun to talk about than all the random crap I have typed so far in this post!

The first ice cream I've made since being back was maple pecan. It could have been sweeter and maple-r and creamier (the lack of sweetness and maple taste were the fault of the recipe; the lack of creaminess was my fault, as I ran out of cream and had to substitute milk for half of it, in addition to the milk that was already called for), but it was actually delicious anyway. I would make it again, with a few changes.

Then Jamie got back from China, and presented to me not only a pearl bracelet but a book of Ben and Jerry's recipes! This is great, because now I can cut out my final holdout Nestle purchases (how upsetting is it that B&J's ended up in Nestle hands, btdubs?) and make delicious frozen goodness on my own! As we have discovered in the last week, homemade Ben and Jerry's recipes have the best of both worlds - absolutely tippity top notch recipes - it can be hard to discriminate appropriately when looking up ice cream recipes online - and perfect fresh creamy homemade texture. So far I've made chocolate peanut butter - which Jamie, Alex, and Jillian all said was the best ice cream they had ever had in their lives - and chocolate mint, and, today, mocha chip. Who knows what will come next? I went on a grocery trip they other day specifically for all the non-perishable ice cream ingredients I might ever want, and I came away with chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, Andes mints, Reese's peanut butter cups, malt balls, peppermint extract, walnuts, pecans, ground coffee, and an order into Foodtown for heath bars. Now all I want are carob chips, coconut cream, Kahlua, chocolate-covered almonds, and about half a dozen other deliciously obscure ingredients that probably necessitate a TJ's trip (I would head to Whole Foods too, since it is right across Union Square from TJ's, but I think it still has bad labor policies. Stupid unethical companies, keeping me from shopping at you.). Anyway, maybe I'll go for something non-chocolate next: peanut butter, or vanilla after-dinner mint. We will have to wait and see!

So that's it on the ice cream front. Now for the sourdough front! I've been desperately missing good San Francisco sourdough since I moved to New York, and I've been intending to make sourdough starter for about six months, but I had to wait for the warm weather, as it needs to sit between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit while it develops (after that, you can keep it in the fridge when you're not using it). I finally got to it this week! It's mostly been under 85 here this week, at least, which is a big change from before (still unpleasantly humid, but that's another story - and it cooled down a lot and rained today, which was exciting!).

Sourdough starter pretty much just consists of flour and warm water, mixed together and set out for several days to catch and grow wild yeasts from the air. If you cheat, like I do, you also add store-bought yeast at the beginning, to facilitate initial growth. I used these instructions, although I made only a half batch at first, because I wasn't sure my glass container was big enough (I am using my one-quart batter bowl, as I could not find a larger glass container at Foodtown [or, for that matter, any glass containers], and it has, in fact, turned out to be big enough, but it does mean that I no longer have the use of my batter bowl. Oh well; it has been sacrificed to a great cause!). Once it's bubbly (although I have found that mine is frothy very inconsistently, and frequently - almost every day, when I go to check on it and feed it - has formed not only hooch on top, but a pretty solid skin atop the hooch, which I also have to stir back in. This worried me initially, but as it is still alive and delicious, I am no longer worrying about it) and has a "pleasant sour smell," it is ready to be fed every day. This means that you remove one unit of starter, and either throw it out or use it in something, and replace it with one unit of flour and one of warm water. Super easy! You can also take out arbitrary amounts of starter when you want to cook something, as long as you replace with more flour and water; it doesn't seem to hurt if you feed it more often than once a day, although I think if you do it too much, you have to give it a little while for the yeasts to catch up. Plus, if you keep it in the fridge, you only have to feed it once a week (although you do have to plan a day ahead if you're going to make bread, and take it out early to warm up), and you can even keep it in the freezer!

Anyway, I have been using it to make sourdough! I made the first loaf when the starter was only 3 days old, so it had only the barest hint of sourdough flavor. Also, it was small, because I only made a half recipe (found here), because I didn't have enough starter for a whole one (I have been gradually increasing my amount of starter since then). I did as the author suggests, and did the second rise overnight in the refrigerator, which I assume strengthed the flavor, but which did not get it to twice its size. Oh, well. It was still good, and got eaten in a day.

The second loaf I made was the next day; same size, same recipe, slightly older starter; stronger flavor. Did the refrigerate rise first this time, according to Debby's suggestion. This time it didn't rise at all in the fridge! I rose it in a warm oven the next morning, and - maybe because it was on a pan instead of in a bowl? - it rose more out than up, although it did go up some, and then when I slashed it across the top per instructions, all the air went out and it deflated like a quiche. I stuck it in the oven anyway, and though it was denser than the first loaf (which was a fraction too dense to begin with), it was still delicious. We ate half of it and saved the other half for French toast this morning.

And I made another loaf yesterday/this morning! This time I used this recipe, and I think I like it better. It had a much stronger sourdough flavor - possibly just because my starter was another day older, but I think also because of the larger and more equal amount of flour and warm water added to the starter at the beginning of making the dough - and also made a lot more bread. It was actually supposed to be two loaves, but when I rose them on a cookie sheet in the oven (not turned on; just trying to keep open food out of the kitchen due to a problem mentioned previously in this post) overnight, they rose completely out instead of up, and ended up smushed together into one big loaf. Next time I'll rise them in a bowl. But I stuck it in the oven anyway, took it out when it was done, let it cool around 20 minutes, spent another 10 minutes prying it off the cookie sheet with my spatula (guess I didn't use enough cornmeal...), and then cut it, ate it plain, and made delicious delicious French toast out of it! The smell of the loaf made me feel like I was sitting on the wharf, which I think is a good sign that I've made some good bread! I will definitely be using this recipe again - although I have also, with just a cursory web search, found about 20 other sourdough - and chocolate sourdough and cheddar sourdough and sourdough pancake - recipes that I'd like to try.

In other news, Edlyn came over last night! Yay yay yay yay yay! And she thinks (cross fingers) that she'll have more free time as a second-year intern, and we might hang out more often than every four or five months! That would be great. She and Alex and I talked and reminisced and traded stories for several hours, and ordered super delicious Indian food in (it was pooooooouring out, and there is this really cool site called Seamless Web where you can order takeout without ever picking up the phone!), and in general had an excellent time. Also, she liked the sourdough.

In other other news, I finally watched one of those movies about the food industry, which movies and books I have been avoiding for the last couple years, because I knew they would basically keep me from ever eating again. But Jamie's mom had sent her Food, Inc. and she really wanted to watch it, and I do have some modical sense of social responsibility, so she and Alex and I sat down with it.

Oy. I can never eat again.

Actually, that's a lie. I will just have to start spending more on food, which is frustrating because I am a pauper, but what can you do. Jamie and Alex and I want to join a CSA (I've wanted to for a while, but they are prohibitively expensive); now it just comes down to finding a winter CSA (the summer/fall ones are already more than halfway through their season) that is affordable split among the three of us (i.e. probably $300 or less, total; $100 or less each). I've found one or two, but their registrations forms aren't up online yet, which makes sense because it is August. So in the meantime, it is the farmers' markets for us! I also kind of want to join the CSA for the Piggery, not because I am normally particularly enamoured of pork, but because I know all about them from some transcription work I've done! They are super great and ethical and, apparently, produce delicious (and healthy) meat, and I want to give them a go! Maybe I will have to find the NYC farmers' market they attend, and try out their stuff. Did you know that healthy pastured pork fat is equivalent to a mixture of half butter and half olive oil? I love my job.

Anyway, I think that's all for now! I sold the inconvenient desk today (yay!), and Alex and I bought our Greyhound tickets to Lewiston. Watched three episodes of The Daily Show (which reputedly has woman-hiring problems I don't want to know more about because I love this show so much and I can't have yet another progressive facade come crashing down on me right now, plus Kristen Schaal was on it the other day and I love her so much too), ate some mocha chip ice cream, time for bed! This was an enormous post, because it was so catch-up-y, but I am hoping to post more regularly through the next few months, and they won't have to be this epic! For the next post, you may look forward to the story of getting hired with Monmouth, pictures of my new furniture, and possibly, if you are lucky, the lyrics to a song titled "I Only Love You For Your Warts." In the meantime, you may enjoy these pictures:

This was supposed to be two sourdough boule loaves...

...but I guess they are a hilariously large,
hilariously flat,
hilariously tough-crusted-on-the-bottom loaf
Fortunately, they are still incredibly delicious
and remind me of home.