Sunday, July 26, 2009


This weekend's Serious Eats Weekend Cook and Tell project highlights the tomato.

I thought, "Pfft, this is going to be easy!" We use tomatoes all the time. I mentioned this to Bug and he replied that we should do something other than what is expected; namely, tomato salad and tomato sauce pasta.

For four days, we stewed over this, flipping through our cookbooks, scouring websites, and brainstorming ingredients.

~ The Salad ~

SE Salad near
I don't think we have any tomatoes

Yes, this was a cop out. Throw tomatoes on a plate. *shrug* It tasted good.

yellow tomato, sliced ($1.96)
hydroponic tomato, sliced ($1.41)
roma tomatoes, sliced ($0.60)
cucumber, sliced ($0.50)
grape tomatoes, sliced ($0.67)
kalamata olives ($1.12)
ciliegine mozzarella ($1.49)
basil ($0.44)
olive oil
black pepper

At a total cost of $8.19 for 2 servings, I wouldn't consider this budget cooking, but it was pretty filling, easy, and the leftovers will carry us through a part of the week. Bug enjoyed it, as much as he is able to enjoy a platter without meat.

When the plate was finally made up, I began shuffling and singing, "Which vegetable doesn't belong here?" I was compelled to include some kind of crunch.

~ The Entree ~

SE Pasta2
No tomatoes here

For the main course, Ms. Michele Humes' Spaghetti all'Aglio e Olio with Marinated Summer Vegetables recipe posted on Serious Eats stood out. Her recipe is as follows (which I apparently didn't).

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 plum (Roma) tomatoes, stem ends removed, halved lengthwise and seeded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons white sugar
2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
1-4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 small zucchini, cut on the bias in 1/3-inch slices ($0.88)
1 small yellow squash, cut on the bias in 1/3-inch slices ($0.70)
2 tablespoons canola or other neutral-flavored oil

Salted water for boiling
1/2 pound dry spaghetti or other pasta

1. Preheat oven to 250°F. Pour half of the extra virgin olive oil into a large glass or ceramic baking dish. Place tomatoes in dish cut side up.

2. Pour remaining oil over tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 1 hour. Using tongs, turn tomatoes over. Bake 1 hour longer. Turn tomatoes over again. Bake until deep red and very tender, 15-45 minutes longer, depending on ripeness of tomatoes.

3. Transfer tomatoes and 1/4 cup of the oil to a large bowl, reserving the remaining oil for another use. Sprinkle garlic and parsley over tomatoes and let steep until tomatoes are room temperature. (Can be done and refrigerated up to five days ahead. Bring up to room temperature before using.)

4. While the tomatoes are resting at room temperature, place yellow and green squash slices in a large mixing bowl. Add canola oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper, and toss to coat.

5. Heat a large saute or grill pan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, arrange squash slices in pan in a single layer and cook for two minutes on each side or until well-browned. Remove and transfer to the bowl containing the tomatoes, coating the slices in oil. Repeat with remaining squash.

6. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and immediately toss with tomato, squash and olive oil mixture. If it seems a little dry, add some of the reserved oil until pasta is uniformly glossy. Serve hot or cooled to room temperature.

Silly me, I worked off memory, so I used:
3 roma tomatoes ($1.79)
2 cloves garlic, minced
basil ($0.44) -- instead of parsley
2 kielbasa ($1.58) -- Bug wants his meat!
peanut oil -- this was the only neutral oil we had
linguine -- our preferred pasta

I was lucky to have picked an amazing zucchini that was the sweetest I've ever tasted. The tomatoes were tasty, even though I added the garlic and basil in the beginning. More basil was added at the end, when I noticed that they turned a sickly shade of green partway through.

The big questions -- did Bug like it? Was it worth preparing and cooking for 3 hours? Bug liked the tomatoes, squash, and the addition of the kielbasa, but would have preferred a more substantial binder.

It was very easy and not very time consuming, despite the 3 hours needed to prepare and cook, since the recipe didn't require me to be in the kitchen for the duration. The tomatoes didn't caramelize as I expected.

The entree cost $5.39 for 2-1/2 servings, so this was inexpensive to make. We'll likely alter it to suit Bug's penchant for meat and heartier fare.

But wait, there's more...

~ The Dessert ~

SE Tomato Cake Banana Pudding
Tomato cake with banana pudding ice cream and basil garnish

Just as a goofy thing to do, I looked online for a tomato dessert. My first thought was a sorbet. The recipes I found were either not what I intended - a savory sorbet - or required me to have an ice cream maker, which I do not.

I rummaged around for a cake recipe and found a Green Tomato Cake recipe on Allrecipes.

4 cups chopped green tomatoes
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup butter
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Place chopped tomatoes in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt. Let stand 10 minutes. Place in a colander, rinse with cold water and drain.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan.
3. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat until creamy.
4. Sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add raisins and nuts to dry mixture; add dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Dough will be very stiff. Mix well.
5. Add drained tomatoes and mix well. Pour into the prepared 9 x 13 inch pan.
6. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean.

Now for the deviations...

1. 2-1/2 [hydroponic] tomatoes ($2.52) were used, since we weren't able to get green tomatoes.
2. Pureed 2 c of tomatoes instead of chopping 4 c tomatoes.
3. Omitted 1 T salt, rinsing and draining the tomatoes.
4. The amount of butter was reduced.
5. Used slivered almonds ($0.61)-- Bug prefers almonds over walnuts.
6. Added 1/2 tsp of lime juice.
7. Instead of a 9 x 13" pan, I used a narrow, rectangular casserole dish. As a result, I adjusted for the density by baking the cake at 275 for 70 minutes.

The edges formed a perfectly textured and colored crust, and the cake was moist. There is a mysterious savory essence that, once told, the flavor of the tomato becomes evident. The predominant flavor of the cake is similar to a spice or carrot cake.

As for the frosting, I made a standard cream cheese frosting and added cinnamon.

1 8 oz package of cream cheese ($0.89)
1/2 c butter
2 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon

1. Beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy.
2. Slowly add sugar, then vanilla and cinnamon.
3. Refrigerate the frosting so it firms up.

I became impatient waiting to take a picture of the cake. Despite Bug's warning, I was a moron and put the frosting on the cake 30 minutes after pulling the cake out of the oven. This was the first time I made a cake with frosting from scratch.

The frosting oozed everywhere, so I ate more cake and frosting than I really wanted to get the perfect slice, which I ultimately didn't acquire, just so I could take a picture. I threw the cake in the refrigerator to speed things up.

Bug loved the cake and the frosting. I was quite surprised with the outcome of the cake, but it'll be a while before I make this again having had my fill of the frosting. It is a good cake to make for a funky party, and for $4.02, quite affordable.

- Cassaendra

Saturday, July 25, 2009



Yakisoba is a dish I fondly associate with weekends.

When I was a child, my mother would prepare this dish as a light lunch during the weekends at least once or twice per month. When I became old enough to cook, I took the helm.

The flavor is kind to western tongues because one of the major components is Worcestershire sauce.

Since moving from home, I always have a few packages of Sapporo Ichiban "chow mein" in the cupboard. I've tried other brands, but always return to the $0.49 package. The flavor is similar to the yakisoba you'd get at any small restaurant in Japan, as well as Benihana. An inexpensive and filling meal for my belly and soul.

My usual add-ins are spinach, shrimp, egg, and Spam. I was out of spinach and shrimp, and had a half-shriveled jalapeno pepper lounging, forgotten in the dark depths of the vegetable drawer.

My version...
1. Fry beaten egg with a butter coated surface on medium heat so the egg doesn't burn. Cut into thin slices and set aside.
2. Fry Spam slices until crisp, then add sliced jalapeno peppers and continue frying for a few more minutes. Set aside.
3. Boil noodles in water with a teaspoon of sriracha. Remove from heat and mostly drain when noodles are 2/3 cooked. There should be a smattering of liquid left in the pan.
4. Add the yakisoba powder seasoning, a few drops of sesame oil, Spam and jalapeno slices to the noodles, and fry until the seasoning is incorporated throughout. Turn off heat. Add egg slices and mix with noodles.

Instead of using the laver included with the noodles, I sprinkled furikake (sesame, nori, salt, sugar). It's also good with benishoga - red slivers of ginger.

The use of sriracha and Kewpie mayonnaise in my yakisoba is a fairly recent addition, something I have used for ~5 years. I didn't realize mayonnaise was eaten with yakisoba until I bought an instant bowl-of-yakisoba. A packet of mayonnaise was included. Woah. (Keanu!)

It's grey out, a bit drizzly and cool, so I was in the mood for Risky by Sakamoto Ryuichi with Iggy Pop.

Ryuichi Sakamoto + Iggy Pop (vocals)

- Cassaendra

Monday, July 20, 2009


It is only fair to show the difference between Tremont on a normal versus event day.


Normal Parking
Normal day at 17:00

Taste of Tremont Parking
Event day at 15:00

Professor Avenue...

Normal Professor at 1700
Professor Ave on a normal, non-Art Walk evening at 17:00

Taste Professor at 1500
Professor Ave during the Taste of Tremont at 15:00

Almost all of Tremont is busier on the 2nd Friday of each month due to the ArtWalk, but it is nowhere near as busy as it is during the Taste of Tremont.

- Cassaendra

More Random Tastes

I took a TON of pictures of each stall at the Taste of Tremont, but feel uninspired to post them all. It is past its moment, I am tired and don't feel like writing much either.


Ty Fun
Ty Fun booth

Bug and I tried Ty Fun when it first opened. I don't recall which two entrees we ate other than sharing a platter of pad thai, which is what we always do when we eat Thai food. The food was delicious, but a touch pricey.

What I do remember about the place is that it is meticulously kept, with nary a stray morsel of food. The space is small, wall-to-wall berber carpet, if I recall correctly, efficient layout, and decorated in very simple, solid colors - white, black, brown.

Tremont Scoops
Tremont Scoops

We wanted to bring Akemi, but decided against it. Most of the pictures were taken when the festival first started so there was actually room to sneeze without spraying anyone. As time passed, the streets became claustrophobic. Akemi's clean and dainty feet would have been trampled upon.

Believe me, you do not want to be the result of a shiba inu screaming in public. Go ahead, look it up...

Lemonade stand

I was enthralled with the little lemon tree. I've never seen a lemon tree, so this was surreal.


The show that was Fahrenheit. They were one of a few restaurants that cooked food as you stood in line, instead of serving out of pans. You were given a bit of entertainment and good food for a nominal price.

Fahrenheit Loaded
Fahrenheit POH-TAY-TOE

Poor guy, but cool gadget. The Loaded Chips at Fahrenheit were extremely popular. You could hear them yelling out, "Loaded!" almost every minute. He was constantly drilling away. The loaded chips toppings consisted of goat cheese, bacon, tomatoes, scallions, and sea salt.

Asterisk Gallery
Asterisk Gallery

- Cassaendra

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Taste of Tremont

Today, our neighborhood held a food fest, the Taste of Tremont. This is the first time we've exerted an effort to attend the event, having lived here nearly 15 years. In previous years, we stayed in and were oblivious, finding out a week even a month after it took place.

Taste of Tremont Parking

We noticed people parking 3-4 blocks away from the festivities, as well as parking illegally along the sidewalk. The police didn't nitpick.

It appears there was a fairly strong turn-out.

Taste Professor at 1500
The crowd at 15:00

We decided to cap our spending to $10, so we had to be judicious and agree where we would spend our money. We could have easily spent $100 trying something from every food vendor. There were 23 booths serving food out of 54.

Fahrenheit Chef Whalen Crew
Chef Whalen and crew grilling behind the tent

Fahrenheit had an impressive presence, with two areas to buy food - their tent and taco truck.

Yes, taco truck! (I'll talk about the tent in my next entry.)

Fahrenheit Taco Truck
Rocco's taco truck

This sounds silly but the large chrome taco truck was unassuming and therefore missed by many people.

Fahrenheit Taco Truck
Taco truck food prep

I happened to mention the tacos to Bug as we were sitting in the shade after rounding the entire circuit. He looked at me quizzically and stammered, "Tacos?! Where?!" I pointed to the truck. We walked over to the little window and ordered two tacos, chili beef and roasted chicken, for $5 total.

Fahrenheit Chili Beef Taco
Chili beef taco served

Both tacos came with two amazingly thin, soft, and strong tortillas, packed with pickled cabbage, jack cheddar, and pico de gallo.

Fahrenheit Chili Beef Taco Nom
Chili beef taco

The tart, crunchy cabbage blended beautifully with the cheese and rich, spicy beef. No chintzy meat servings here!

Fahrenheit Roasted Chicken Taco
Roasted chicken taco served

The roasted chicken was tender and nicely textured. Again, the pickled cabbage and cheese went well with the juicy chicken.

Fahrenheit Roasted Chicken Taco Nom
Roasted chicken taco

Which taco was better? They were both fantastic. Yes, I ate them even with pico de gallo! I remarked to Bug that I would like these tortillas at home. The tacos were definitely the best deal around.

Ever since I saw Dish Deli recently while walking the dog, I've been interested in trying their food.

Dish Taste of Tremont
Chef Chriszt and the Dish Deli crew

The rosemary lavender cookie stood out as the one thing I wanted to try of all the menu items I saw from everyone. Something so simple as a cookie? Certainly Michael Symon's Lolita had something, Lago, or Fat Cats? Actually, I wanted to check out Fat Cats' spicy Korean style ribs, but I just had the real thing a few nights ago.

Dish Rosemary Lavender Cookie
Rosemary lavender cookie from Dish

The chorizo kebab at Southside sounded pretty good too. However, I've never had a rosemary lavender cookie. The cookie had an intriguing flavor, in a great way. While I've read about putting lavender in cookies, I've never actually tasted it before.

I carefully opened the clear gift bag the cookie was wrapped in, as if it were a golden ticket. The bag opened like a blossom and out wafted the scent of lavender.

I believe I would have elicited stares if I walked around with a bag around my nose while eating a cookie, so I decided to conform to societal norms and gobbled the buttery, slightly bittersweet cookie. We need to pay Dish Deli a visit in the near future for more.

Dish also had pomegranate lemonade that sounded pretty good in the heat. Lolita had mint lemonade that I wanted to try, but I forgot about it when it came time to decide.

Oh, speaking of golden tickets, Bistro had an ingenious hook. Select french fry cups were marked. Winners received a $25 gift certificate to their restaurant.

We left before the Michael Symon commemoration because we needed to walk the dog before she snacked on her poop.

- Cassaendra

2417 Professor Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113-4629
(216) 781-8858

Dish Deli & Catering
1112 Kenilworth
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 523-7000

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walk the Humans

Akemi Watching Drunks
I see drunk people

Every day, the dog takes us out for a walk. When we stepped outside, it was temperate, but it was not the high of 68°F I was promised! We could hear wisps of music drifting from the direction of the park.

We are glad to see La Bodega re-open. It was closed due to an explosion that leveled the house next door approximately a month ago.

La Bodega reopens
La Bodega

The space to the left is where the house used to stand. The houses behind and to the left of the lot are still blistered and vacant.

We ought to get sandwiches there some time to show support. I adore their grilled eggplant, bocconcini, and tomatoes, with pesto mayonnaise on rosemary ciabatta. Heavenly! Bug likes their Italian sub.

Under construction

Across the street from La Bodega, the previous store owner (dry cleaner-Fed Ex depot-consignment store) moved out a couple of weeks ago. I've seen people working on the place for the past week or so. I wonder what this store will be?

AleFestival sign
Ale Festival sign, Beer Toilet line

A ha! The source of the music. How novel, a booze festival! (EverQuest flashback -- a Sanctus Seru mob encounters you and says: How novel, a talking piece of refuse.) The park was cordoned off with 3-4 security guards at each gap and a stage on the north end of the park, where a band played ~20 yards from the food and drink booths. Of course, 95% of the people were swarmed around the booze...the rest were lined up to use the bathroom.

I didn't expect an admission fee, since the people standing around the breaks in the barricade didn't have any means to accept money. When I inquired with one of the security guards, he said that admission was $30/person (gasp) for all you can drink beer from 13:00 - 17:00, to be collected upon entry at the center of the park. Food would be separately billed.

AleFestival Line
Line to the crappers lol

From my observation, there were a total of 4 toilet stalls. Yikes. Akemi was doing her thing off-stage right. No line for her, as the world is at her paws and we are her sewer, err stewards.

Bug was curious, but shied away as the price was a bit steep. He'd be paying $60 for both of us, with only one person drinking. He hoped that there was some kind of medical team there to treat heat stroke, alcohol poisoning, and minor abrasions.

Ale Festival crowd
Ale Festival crowd

The only beer Bug recalled seeing as he passed by was Goose Island. According to the Scene's blurb of the event, Great Lakes (local), Rock Bottom (their alder smoked salmon fish and chips are amazing!), Fat Heads, and CornerStone (local) Breweries were represented.

This wasn't a lush-fest with people running around carrying women to the bushes or frat kiddies racing about naked screaming. The crowd appeared to be mellow, in their late 20s on up. It seems like a respectable event, and pretty good turn-out for being its first year and not heavily advertised.

Around the park perimeter, there are several eateries nestled between 6 churches.

Pulaski Post 30
Pulaski Post 30

The post has been here for a long time. Perhaps I shouldn't count it amongst the other places since I have always been under the impression that this establishment is members only, being that it is a VFW post.

Prosperity Social Club

Prosperity Social Club is always busy as a late night dining option and solid specials. Their kitchen serves until midnight on Mondays and Tuesdays, and until 2 a.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. I have yet to go there in its current incarnation and would like to check out their Gouda burger.

I thought I took a picture of Bistro on Lincoln Park, along the northwest corner of the park. Doesn't their menu sound like fun? Their duck strudel sounds tantalizing. Although, someone really needs to proofread their menu. At least it's not as bad as Dr. Lizardo's signs at Yoyodyne. Then again, his mind isn't from this dimension either.

Civilization coffee shop

When I first moved to the area many years ago, I frequently bought gifts at the drug store turned coffee shop. Civilization was under a different name and run by two owners; however, one partner left to open another coffee house in a different suburb. It has been ~5 years since I last went in. No real reason other than, boy, does time fly!

Dish deli

I have been meaning to try Dish, 2 doors west of Civilization, but haven't gotten around to it. I shopped at the deli 2 owners previous. The set up of the shop then was really cool, with built-in shelves stocked with imported food. I would buy gifts there as well.

Akemi will often take us through our neighborhood's row of restaurants so we can stumble by her favorite storefront, Tremont Scoops. She always slows down when she walks by the parlor and stares through the door. The ice cream is fantastic, Akemi loves their doggie treats, and the proprietor is down-to-earth. When you buy pints, they pack 'em in good.

- Cassaendra

Center of the Sun

I'm frequently amazed at the creativity and devotion that people exert when making fan videos, especially the well made ones. While they may not have created the original images, editing isn't exactly a cakewalk.

"Final Fantasy XII" edited to Center of the Sun

Center of the Sun by Conjure One is off of their self-titled album, one of my top 5 favorite CDs. For nearly 20 years, I have been a sucker for bands Rhys Fulber has touched, from Front Line Assembly, Will, the many phases of Delerium, to early Fear Factory and Nailbomb (Max Cavalera, Alex Newport, et al.).

"300" edited to Center of the Sun (Solarstone's Chilled-Out Remix)

When we went to see 300, I had high expectations, mostly due to the hype, but was unimpressed. It was visually stunning, no doubt, but the story seemed to lacked depth for a 2 hour movie. Using the same images, this video was more poignant in less than 4 minutes.

Bug did not care for Conjure One's music initially, but after hearing me play the CD 23425234234 times, they have grown on him. I'm sure it helped that Poe sang a couple songs on the CD.

- Cassaendra

Thursday, July 16, 2009


From the road, St. Paul Greek Orthodox Church appears quite small and understated, with the exception of the tower of white, blue, and silver balloons and streamers bouncing in the wind to usher us newbies to the festival entrance.

Past the bend and down a slight decline, the modest looking driveway opens up into an asphalt tundra of parked cars, cars slithering in a line to find parking, and a seething mass of entropic bodies. This place could easily hold parking for at least 300, plus the church has an adjoining soccer field that they (we) utilized for more parking.

Drive Thru
Festival drive-thru

I chuckled when I saw the drive-thru sign, a first for me. I thought people went to festivals to bump bodies with the masses, enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of food, beer, sweat, kids, grass, and baked, wet trash.

Hmm What to Get
Dessert decisions

I've learned that it's not prudent to attempt to decide which Greek dessert to get. It is much better to get at least one of everything. Do not live life with regrets.

N Royalton Greek Fest
Indoor festival crowd at 18:30

The dinner line was daunting so we turned away. What about living life without regrets? The line was not moving. I'm sure Bug would regret having his right arm gnawed off while waiting in line for food. I would regret it too. Who would drive everywhere and cook for me?

The set-up here is a lot better than the one in Tremont because the dancers and band are outside. Call me a curmudgeon, but I don't enjoy screaming over shrill music being spat from bad speakers reverberating in an enclosed box with chandeliers while eating. If both of my hands are covering my ears, I CANNOT EAT!

The festival will run from Thursday through Sunday, so we may return during a more humane hour than during feeding time.

Gas Prices
Fill 'er up!

Gas prices fluctuate quite a bit within the city. On the same day we saw this, the price was $2.54/gallon elsewhere, and people were still pumping fuel there.

You bet we fueled up here.

- Cassaendra

St. Paul Greek Orthodox Church
4548 Wallings Road
North Royalton, OH 44133

Monday, July 13, 2009

Happy Together

I recently received a parcel from my father. Packed inside was a card from my stepbrother and his new wife, newly wed last month. :)

Happy Couple

I wasn't able to attend the ceremony, so they sent a picture. I'm glad my fun-loving, athletic, and a bit mischievous stepbrother has found someone with whom he can settle down!

A gift box of agar + fruits and anmitsu (sweetened azuki paste) was given to my father to forward to us.

Gift box
Gift box

The anmitsu came in 3 pieces -- a rigid plastic container for the agar, a packet of anmitsu, and another packet for the syrup. The agar was silky, instead of firm, which made this treat rather unusual. The anmitsu was squeezed from its packet, followed by the syrup.


I love lightly sweetened desserts. One drawback is that they are a bit too easy to eat just one more.

Cherry agar
Sour cherries in sweetened agar

The sour cherries were delicious chilled. For some reason, this made me crave condensed milk poured atop shaved ice with sweetened taro in the center.

Blueberry agar
Blueberries in sweetened agar

The blueberries were voluptuous. This was my favorite of the fruits.

Peach agar
A peach slice in sweetened agar

The peach tasted spiced, similar to the sweet ume below according to Bug.

Sweet plum agar
Sweet plum in sweetened agar

This was Bug's favorite. I thought it was going to be sour, so I snickered to myself and let him have it. Apparently, it wasn't sour. DOH!

What a treat! Doumo arigatou! And good luck to the new couple!

- Cassaendra

Sunday, July 12, 2009

More than Meets the Eye

Bug and I went to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen last weekend with Goksga, a friend we haven't seen in a while but communicate with frequently.

He was the final nail in the coffin that plunged Bug and I into the World of Warcraft. We first met YEARS ago (has it been 8 years?) in EverQuest. When I think back to seeing him in his gold armor staring back at me on my screen in my mismatched leather, it feels like another time and another place.

I guess it really is.

In a nutshell, Transformers 2 was a humorous mechanical good vs evil action flick set in the northeastern US and Egypt, with stories of love, loyalty, and revenge nestled in 150 minutes of Army recruitment and GM catwalk.

It was entertaining and a great film to go to with friends. There were a few spots where I wished I had a remote control to fast forward through.

I should probably stop and explain why my remote control remark shouldn't be taken too seriously. Extensive fight and love scenes bore me. Generally, I lose interest when there is an expanse of nothingness, filler that contributes nothing to the progression of the story. Even the movies I tell people I adore, my trigger-happy finger on the remote control is on DEFCON 2.

While the transformations looked pretty sharp, it felt like they were beating a dead chihuahua in the beginning. I sat there thinking, "WTH? Why did he transform out and back in 5 seconds?"

The best parts of the movie were the parts that involved the military.

Many critics disliked the film. *shrug* Oh well. The $703 million grossed in less than one month kind of drowns out all the naysayers and secures a Transformers 3.

Like a good meal, it isn't necessarily the food you are served, but the company you keep. Except in a movie, one doesn't go for the conversation -- wait, the person who sat next to me sure did. I got elbowed in the ribs several times as he made comments to me about certain scenes. Fortunately, none of them were romantic scenes. I guess I just shot down the point I was trying to make. Anyway...

Speaking of food, we went to Don Ramon - without a camera again! Maybe next time, when I remember to bring a camera, I'll take a picture of their paradilla, mole poblano, or camarones ala diabla -- hot as hell for me, but would be piquant for Gok, as we watched him poured habanero sauce over his Guadalajara special (chicken and beef taquitos, tamale, marinated shredded chicken, tostada, and salad) several times throughout the meal. GAH! Ring of fire, anyone?

My favorite Sister Machine Gun song, Burn

- Cassaendra

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Take Five

There are a million videos of The Dave Brubeck Quartet performing Take Five live, but my favorite version is this studio version.

Yes, I'm a fuddy duddy.

It brings back fond and not so fond memories of playing this song on the electone at a state-wide music competition when I was 11 or 12 years old. Winners would go on to compete nationally in LA or NY, and of those winners, compete internationally in Tokyo. I nailed the song technically, but there was no depth, and it didn't help that I was not very creative in my improvisational piece.

There was a teenager who performed brilliantly at the competition. So incredible was her improvisational performance, the judges thought she played the professional piece in her program until she announced the title and composer of the song she was about to play. Periodically, I've wondered what happened to her. Unfortunately, I don't remember her name, but I hope she was somehow able to make use of her training and talent!

- Cassaendra

Friday, July 10, 2009

Alone Again

This week's focus on Serious Eats Weekend Cook and Tell is "going solo." Either cooked and enjoyed at home or eaten at a restaurant. We want you to share what you make or eat as well as your thoughts and reflections on eating alone. For those of you who aren't big fans of eating by yourself, take this as an opportunity to expand your horizons and experience the joys of going solo.

I thought there would have been at least one occasion when I'd be able to prepare a meal at home and eat it alone this weekend. As an early riser (~4 a.m.) when I don't have to go to work, I will often catch Bug, the late night owl, for an hour before he winds down to go to sleep. This weekend, however, he made an effort to be up when I was, so there was no time to cook for myself and dine alone. The trade-off was a lot better, as I would rather spend the time with him...but I'm glad I lugged my camera to work and started this entry during my lunch break on Friday.

My favorite meal pairing is a bowl of soup and a half-sandwich, any time of day. Fortunately, we have numerous soup and made-to-order sandwich choices at work, with Au Bon Pain (ABP) at the top of my list.

ABP Meal
Advertise much?

After eyeing all the pastries, hot entrees, and their diverse soup and salad bar selections, it was 11:15 when I settled down to eat my favorite soup, one of 12 offered each day, curried rice and lentil soup, with a recently discovered favorite, Mayan chicken hot wrap without onions ($9.48), along with a palmier ($1.99) as a closer, and a frozen watermelon lemonade ($3.69) to wash everything down. The drink was refreshing and not cloying, made with lemonade and sliced watermelon chunks blended with fine slivers of ice. What a lovely ice crushing machine.

Dining alone at a restaurant feels awkward probably because of the environment. At the dining areas where I work, at least half of the diners are alone so it doesn't feel quite as odd. The table arrangements also reflect this.

Having never really noticed or, more accurately, never cared, solo diners appear to fall under two categories here; those who splice their minutes and seize the moment to inhale their carbohydrates and protein, as they work on their laptop, and those who are killing time for themselves or waiting on loved ones, each globular tick oozing into the next tock in deep contemplation.

I woefully discovered that I fall under the former group during my lunch breaks, unappreciative of the food before me; whether I've brought leftovers where we spent half the day in the kitchen cooking together, where Bug stayed up all night to prepare lunch for me, or buying the tray of spicy shrimp tempura maki on the counter at one of the cafeterias.

When I pulled the camera out of my bag, I began to feel a twinge of guilt. Taking pictures of food in public places still weirds me out. It feels wrong, like propping your feet up on a chair in front of you or picking at food in your teeth in public. That feeling is amplified when alone.

ABP Curried Rice Lentil Soup
Curried Rice and Lentil Soup

ABP's curried rice and lentil soup always hits the spot. Lentils, tomatoes, curry, onions, carrots, and peppers. How could it not be delicious? My other favorite soup is their Portuguese kale soup. While I find that even their low-sodium soups are salty, sandwiches are a great counter to this.

Dining alone in my office is significantly different from dining elsewhere. [I suppose this is what, at times, makes seeing other solo diners' eating habits somewhat gross.] While this may be obvious, I previously never gave it much thought. When I eat in my office, I always lock the door, so I can be left alone.

Dining outside with someone is almost the same experience, except the sphere is expanded a little. My environment is often blurred, while I concentrate on my food and my meal partner(s). Alone, it's as if someone has lifted a screen. The scent of coffee and sweet pastries, the drone of people shuffling, Arabic, Spanish, English, and other indistinguishable chatter fluctuating with the overhead music bleeding within my periphery.

I was reminded of what a friend and I used to do in college, as we sat in the middle of the cafeteria during peak dining hours. No, we didn't do anything gross or obnoxious, at least not in college. We would lean back in our chairs and close our eyes. The spacious 3-story high ceiling with carpeted floor and walls of mostly glass would reflect so many conversations, the auditory bombardment could drive one insane.

Barely discernible was Michael Stipe crooning overhead, as the Damned's Alone Again Or, a song I had not thought about since the late '80s when I was in college, bucked stubbornly into my thoughts, desperate to blot out the whining.

ABP Mayan Chicken Wrap
Mayan chicken wrap

I have a feeling Mayans given this sandwich would probably furrow their eyebrows much like I do when I am presented with many dishes labeled "Hawaiian" or "Japanese." Name aside, the blend of flavors is agreeable.

A slightly spicy jalapeno mayonnaise is slathered atop a tortilla with a sufficient balance of diced cucumbers, tomatoes, and a sprinkle of carrot slivers cut to order. Jasmine rice is layered atop the salad, followed by chicken stewed in a thick, smoky, peppery tomato base. I could have done without half the rice, as it was an overcooked mass. As impressive as they may look, I have recently come to the conclusion that over-sized burritos are an abomination born from a modern epidemic. More isn't always better.

The second half of the wrap was dissected as effectively as possible without breaking the flimsy plastic soup spoon. The saucy spiced chicken, cool tomatoes, and cucumbers, were picked out and consumed. The rice, wrap, and 1/4 of the soup were abandoned as I headed back to my office, sated, toting the palmier and lemonade.

ABP Palmier
P is for palmier

Later in the afternoon, the palmier was om nom nom nom'ed while I was working on updating one of my Sharepoint sites.

Palmier aren't easily found in these parts, but when I have found them at other bakeries, they've been lackluster. At ABP, they are crisp on the outside and flaky on the inside, but not painfully dry. As a result of the thin layer of caramelized sugar, there is a slight chew. Large sugar crystals are sprinkled for a smile-inducing crunch.

The Damned's version of "Alone Again Or"

It has become easy to slip into living each day in eat-sleep-work mode, where countless moments are not fully appreciated that should be.

- Cassaendra

Au Bon Pain
2049 E 100th St
Cleveland, OH 44106
Tel: (216) 421-8672

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