This time I'm going to give all of you way more than 24 hours notice about the next Duke Symphony Orchestra performance, which will be next Wednesday, December 5th , at 8 PM, in Baldwin Auditorium. It is free and open to the public.
Saint-Saëns: Danse Macabre
Fauré: Pavane, Op. 50
Debussy: Danses Sacrée et Profane (Laura Byrne, harpist)
Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique
The Symphonie Fantastique, in particular, is a marvelous piece and I'm overjoyed to get a chance to hear it live. Again, I think this is an excellent opportunity to expose your kids to live classical music.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
This time I'm going to give all of you way more than 24 hours notice about the next Duke Symphony Orchestra performance, which will be next Wednesday, December 5th , at 8 PM, in Baldwin Auditorium. It is free and open to the public.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Last night I went out to enjoy the Tasting Menu at Jujube, in Chapel Hill, with bloggers from CookingEatingDurham, Eat at Joe's and Delicious Durham. It was a very interesting experience in that I've never had anywhere close to a twenty course meal before and never had the chefs so involved in the dining experience. Chefs Charlie Deal and Josh DeCarolis (he even showed us his tatoos!) are clearly passionate about what they do and seemed genuinely excited that we were experiencing their creations. I can certainly identify strongly with that enthusiasm from observing people's reactions to my paintings. Their unique creations, so heavily influenced by both Asian and Italian cuisine, are marvelous. I truly appreciate DurhamFood's arranging this event for us. It was fun learning more about food from the other bloggers, as well as the chefs, and all of us were taking notes as we went along.
Kelly, over at Delicious Durham, went into detail about every single course, but I will just mention a few, or perhaps just over half of them. You can see all of the photos I took on flickr and I will label them soon. I am afraid that only 19 of the 20 courses are represented there. I must have had the vapors at the idea of eating foie gras for the first time.
Wagyu beef carpaccio with egg gribiche and a potato waffle chip: I liked the waffle chip. Since I don't eat beef, my beef veneer was split among three others.
Encorotza: The mini smoked buffalo mozzarella and anchovies sandwich was my absolutely favorite course. It was inspired by a monte christo, effectively a French toast grilled cheese sandwich, which just happened to be my favorite meal at the IBM (Tivoli) cafeteria, before they removed it from the weekly menu. As you can guess, this was way better. It was delicious. This was also fun, because several of us guessed what type of lubricant was used to grill the sandwiches and we were all wrong. It was peanut oil.
Porcini-stuffed rice fritters with aged shoyu: Despite my hatred for mushrooms, I thought this was good. The crispness of the fritter obscured the texture of the mushroom so I got to enjoy the flavor.
Seared foie gras with Vietnamese-style shrimp pate and mint: So, I believe this was my first exposure to high quality foie gras, but I have to say that my love for all things duck, including pâté, doesn't mean that I'm excited about eating an unadulterated-enlarged liver from a force-fed duck or goose. I thought it was good, but not nearly as good as ordinary breast meat. Perhaps my tastes are not quite so refined, but that's fine with me. The mint was a very nice touch.
"White-trasherole": This was not only cute, but excellent. I'm not even sure I've had the original green bean and cream of mushroom casserole that this course was mocking, since I don't like mushrooms, but this was very good. Charlie explained that they used pulverized shitake mushrooms in order to produce the umami flavor. Again, I think any chef that can get me to enjoy something that contains ingredients that I don't normally appreciate is impressive to me.
Quail egg filled won-ton with brown butter and truffle: I thought this was good, but I agreed with my fellow bloggers that it wasn't as exciting as some of the other courses. That said, I still really liked it, especially the brown butter. It would be nifty to have a little bacon with this, so it could be "eggs and bacon". The large truffle shaving allowed me to mentally solidify the flavor and texture of truffles in my mind, which was nice.
Seared scallop with squid ink and black truffle cream: I thought that this was the most flavorful scallop that I've ever eaten and the sauce was great. This was probably my second favorite course.
Venison truffle angolotti with robiola cream: These reminded me of adorable little meat-filled ravioli and were superb.
By the time we got to the meat, I was starting to feel quite full and was thankful that I don't eat beef anyway. Thanks very much to DurhamFood's friend, R, who happily finished off several of my meat courses!
Bacon not stirred: The dessert portion started with a bourbon-based drink, of which I took just a sip. It had a neat flavor that was certainly bacony. I didn't have to ask anyone if they were willing to finish this course for me.
Sweet potato pie with candied baby walnuts: Fortunately, I seem to have a tardis inside when it comes to solid desserts. The real star of this dish was the walnuts, which I will attempt to find in the near future. Thankfully, they were happy to let us see a jar of these nuts, sliced whole and nicely soft.
Truffled chocolate truffle: This dessert was simply perfect. This leaves you with impression that truffle shavings simply belong in chocolate and I would be more than happy to eat one of these at the conclusion of every meal.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Here's the full view of the desecration of Tumbleweed Liaison's cube. Be sure to zoom in to see some of the very creative (and creative commons licensed) artwork. I'm afraid mine were released with all rights reserved.
UPDATE: Now you can see Tumbleweed Liaison's original hand turkey tutorial that inspired us all as well as a slideshow of all the turkeys.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
As I'm sure many of you guessed, I did go to the Carolina Designer Craftsmen show on Saturday and I had a great time, as always. I spent too much money, but it's something for which I mentally have an annual budget. Actually, as far as earrings go, I only bought four pairs, which may be an all-time low. New work by Nell Chandler, Janet Harriman and Sandra McEwen was amazing, though.
I didn't take too many pictures, but here are a few displays that I thought looked particularly nice from a distance. Marti Mocahbee, from Staunton, VA, throws gorgeous and vibrantly colored pottery that looks almost as if it is made of glass.
Larry Favorite's work has literally been a favorite of mine for many years. He inlays ironwood with turquoise, which results in a striking combination. His workshop is in Mebane, NC and I've been meaning to go see it for ages. As part of the guild's new Masterworks program, he's recently started working in a large-scale, more two-dimensional form, which is very impressive.
Friday, November 23, 2007
My parents and I had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. My mom made a turkey breast, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and asparagus. I made rolls using our standard recipe which is based on the one used by the elementary school cafeteria, in Buncombe County, NC, that my mom went to in the 50s. It's been drastically altered to be somewhat healthy, because I believe the original version called for lard.
Mix in a stand mixer with a dough hook:
1 extra large egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
Dissolve into 1 cup of warm water:
1 package of yeast
1 tsp sugar
Add 1 cup of flour and the yeast to the mixer.
Gradually add :
3 cups of flour
1 tsp salt
Keep mixing until the sides of the bowl are clean. You may have to add just a little more flour, until the dough comes off the hook easily and is no longer sticky.
This is when I start cursing at my Kitchen Aid mixer, because I can never get the bowl off the base. Let the dough rise. I'm always highly concerned that it isn't rising enough at this point, but it always turns out just fine. Form roll sized globs of dough and plop them onto a greased baking sheet. I tend to make twelve rolls. Let them rise more. Bake on the top oven rack at 475 degrees for 10 minutes.
This morning I determined that they are very good with caviar and butter. I already knew they were good with everything else, and, of course, plain.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
A co-worker of mine, SM, our Tumbleweed Liaison, left us detailed instructions on how to create hand turkey drawings before he left for Thanksgiving. I thought I would share my two drawings of many that were inspired by his thoughtful tutorials.
Earlier today, I heard an interview on the State of Things, on WUNC Public Radio, with Osha Gray Davidson and Ann Atwater. I thought it was a really good interview, so I recommend that if you missed it, you should check out the podcast, which is available on wunc.org. It's worth a listen, regardless of whether or not you've read the book, attended the event at Duke or driven around looking for sites mentioned in the book.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Every Thanksgiving weekend, the Carolina Designer Craftsmen guild has a show at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. It's not to be missed. In fact, the only time I've missed it in the last fifteen years or so was when I had a bad case of the flu.
If you are looking for gifts or just love jewelry, turned wood, quilts, pottery, dyed silk and other fine crafts, then you need to go. The artwork is lovely and I always enjoy talking to the artists and artisans that sell their work there. In fact, I always plan to spend at least four hours there every year.
38th Fine Craft and Design Show
North Carolina State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, North Carolina
Friday, Nov. 23, 6pm-9pm
Saturday, Nov. 24, 10am-6pm
Sunday, Nov. 25, 11am-5pm
$6 Daily Admission
$8 Weekend Pass
Children under 12 Free
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
On Sunday, I went to the Benson Hamfest, also known as JARSfest, the Johnston Amateur Radio Society fest.
The weather was just perfect and the fall color was incredible. It's a nice little hamfest, too. They had a good turnout and it was a great time for socializing will fellow hams. To me, that's the main point of any hamfest. Back when I first became an amateur radio operator, ten years ago, it seemed as if I came back with a nice new hand held "HT" radio every time I went to a hamfest. For various reasons, vendors selling new radios have been rare at hamfests since then. Now the majority of them sell used equipment and parts, which is more fun to look at, but less tempting for me. Thank goodness.
The last year or so, I've had a different purchasing goal. I've been buying electronic parts, like resistors, for making jewelry. I haven't actually made any jewelry out of them yet, but I've certainly thought about it. It's a bit of a departure from my usual sterling silver and semi-precious bead work. This year, I bought a bunch of LEDs from Lloyd Davis, from Wake Forest. He's 85 years old, extraordinarily nice and he gave me a super deal. It will be particularly cool if hooking up watch batteries to the LEDs will be feasible for making earrings.
Of course, I make it a point to eat a country ham biscuit at every hamfest, even though it may be considered cannibalism. I was going to photograph mine, but I was too hungry.
(Thanks to my Second Most Faithful Reader for the first and third photos and the creative arrangement in the last photo.)
Monday, November 19, 2007
I had so much fun adding my widget containing posts from blogs that I read daily that I added another one for posts from blogs that I read somewhat less often. It's down on the left, below the flickr feed.
I actually have plenty of new things to write about, but I think I'm going to get some sleep instead.
(The photo is of the oak tree that is just to the left of my garage. It's always just turned brown before.)
Sunday, November 18, 2007
This afternoon I added a new widget to the left side of the blog that displays posts from blogs that I read regularly. I looked all over the place for something that would do this and tried out various things, none of which behaved in the way I wanted. One flash based module was slow to load and had a glimmering button. One thing this blog will never have is animation, because that would distract way too much from the scintillating text. I finally noticed that there was a button on the very Google Reader settings page I'd had open for most of the afternoon to add a similar widget to the one I already had for Shared Items. That was what I wanted all along.
This doesn't display every single RSS feed to which I subscribe and read on a daily basis, but it's extremely close. I would guess that it's 95% of what I actually read. It also doesn't display everything on my blogroll, because I'm afraid there aren't enough hours in my day to read all of those and blog, too. Some blogs I just read occasionally.
I hope you all enjoy it. Maybe you will discover some nifty blogs this way.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
On Wednesday I attended a Durham Bloggers Meetup, which was associated with the BlogTogether community. There I met Anton, author of Mistersugar, and Bora Zivkovic, author of A Blog Around the Clock. They are both organizing the the annual North Carolina Science Blogging Conference, which will be held on January 19, 2008, in RTP. I ended up spending most of the time having a comparatively lengthy conversation with the one blogger I already knew, Kevin.
The meetup took place at Wine Authorities, near its magical enomatic machine. From what I observed, it's slightly challenging to get the hang of it, but the idea is that you put money on your card at the register and then use it on the machine to buy wine by the ounce, glass or full-glass. For various reasons, I don't drink alcohol, except for the occasional sip for mentally cataloging flavors, but it seems like a great idea, for wine aficionados, those who want to learn more about wine and those who like the ability to pick a wine by choosing a random number. They also have some coffee and chocolate for sale. The bars of chocolate only differ in the farms on which the cacao was grown. I'm just not quite sure what to think of that potential for snobbery yet, but perhaps I'll be enlightened when or if I taste chocolate from a second farm.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
On Monday, I was very fortunate to get to spend time with my friends from Swivel.com. I suggested that we go to Blu Seafood & Bar, since one of the Swivelers, HB, had read about the restaurant in my blog already. It was, of course, a very good choice. HB did a great job of helping me stage the food for the photos, too.
Here is Blu's updated calamari. It has a little more of a kick to it, now that they've added more spices and the new dipping sauce is nice and tangy. I liked their calamari before, but I think it's even better now.
This was a special appetizer, which was tuna that was seared and rolled in cardamom and fennel. It was really good.
We shared a bowl of their New England clam chowder. It, like everything else, was delicious. I'm definitely going to be ordering this again soon.
Their crabcakes were absolutely wonderful.
I was very excited to see that they now have fried oysters on the menu. They server them in this cute tower over a pool of horseradish cream sauce. I don't know how many thousands of friend oysters I've eaten in my life, but these were some of the best.
For my entree, I had the pan roasted trout with mango-pecan brown butter, mashed sweet potatoes and green beans. I have been known to eat trout on a weekly basis for over a year, so, like oysters, I've eaten a lot of trout. This dish was incredible. After all the appetizers, I couldn't finish this, so I took it home. The leftovers smelled so good as I was putting them away that I almost started eating them again. I saved it for the lunch the next day and happily ate it cold. I don't even normally like sweet potatoes and I really enjoyed them. The sweet potatoes were delicious combined with mango pieces, in particular.
This is one half portion of salmon with cauliflower-chevre puree with roasted root vegetables. I had a bite of the salmon and liked it quite a bit. We also shared mussels and VP and I shared a piece of the key-lime pie. It was definitely quite a meal with great conversation, too. Blu is nice in that it's quiet enough, at least on a weeknight, to both talk and listen.
While I'm uploading photos for a more substantial post, I thought I would mention a couple of other things:
- I realize that not all of my readers read the same blogs that I do, so I figure it's worth mentioning freerice.com. Basically you can be quizzed and learn new vocabulary while proceeds from ad revenue are used to purchase rice to be distributed by the United Nations World Food Program. It is addictive.
- I decided today that there just had to be a way to feed one's e-mail from a listserv into an RSS feed. RSS feeds are the single most (if the not the only) efficient way for me to consume information these days. It turned out that Lifehacker wrote about this back in July, probably while I was in Boston. All you have to do is create a filter to forward the listserv posts to email@example.com and then the RSS feed URL will be mailbucket.com/somestring.xml where somestring is any identifier that isn't already in use by someone else. You can just go to the link and subscribe to it with the aggregator of your choice. It's that easy. The possibilities are seemingly limitless.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I considered titling this post "I'm Not Dead", but I already used that on May 15th, 2004 when I let a week go by without posting due to having put in a tremendous amount of overtime. I've actually had gaps that were much larger in the past, but I must have been actually been dead at the time.
I'm happy to report that it's actually been my social life, rather than work or my sense of direction, that has prevented my posting for three whole nights. That's a good thing, because I've got plenty of things to write about over the next several days. It's also nice that not posting for a comparatively short period of time is, or at least feels, significant.
I will go ahead and say that AN, Google Earth Evangelist (GEE), and I used the Google Maps application on my Treo to actually find a more efficient route this evening, rather than merely using it to look at the satellite views of friends' houses while waiting for people. No, it did not occur to me to use it or my GPS when I was driving around the other night.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
My most Faithful Reader pointed out recently that I hadn't really mentioned Casa Ibarra with any significance since 2004. I was quite surprised and, of course, had to do the search for myself. By golly, she was right. It's time to do it justice.
Casa Ibarra is one of the restaurants where I eat the most frequently. It's cheap, fast, only about three miles from my house and very good. The quality is extremely consistent and they always have great service. They serve Mexican fare and I prefer it to any of the other non-gourmet Mexican restaurants that I've tried in this area. By non-gourmet, I mean that I am not comparing it to Tonali.
The quality of the shrimp in their dishes is exceptional. They are never over or undercooked, just perfect. If I want shrimp, this is where I usually go. My dad always (and I mean always) orders the Burrito Cancun, which is a large burrito filled with shrimp, onions, peppers, cheese and tomato sauce. I order this, too, whenever I'm really hungry. The shrimp fajitas are also very good, but they are more work to eat, since you have to fill the tortillas yourself. I'm usually too lazy.
For years, I either ordered beef chimichangas or beef fajitas, but in the first half of 2004, when I flirted with pesco-vegetarianism for 6-8 months, I gave them up. I'm glad I did, because I discovered that the vegetarian section of their menu is wonderful. In the picture, you can see Vegetarian #3, which has a cheese quesadilla (my favorite), a bean burrito and a chalupa. I hop back and forth between vegetarian selections. I like the spinach quesadilla with the potato burrito when I feel as if I've already had plenty of protein for the day, but I'm just a big fan of spinach in any form. Sometime I just have my own order of guacamole, with their tortilla chips, as my meal.
My mom always (and I mean always) orders the chicken sincronizada without tomatoes, peppers or rice. That leaves onions, avacado, cheese and chicken. It looks pretty good, but I've never tried it.
I never order dessert there, but you don't need it after eating such a hearty meal. I should probably try the flan again, since it's it's been so long since I've had creme caramel from Pyewacket (RIP). Where do you go to get flan or the equivalent?
Saturday, November 10, 2007
I recently wrote about driving co-workers around Durham as part of a planned tour. Well, tonight, I took an unplanned tour of Durham. I was leaving a party and somehow I managed to end up on a different road from the one I had intended to take. I'm fairly talented when it comes to that sort of thing.
It wasn't too long until I found myself in downtown, driving by some of the same sites that we visited less than a week ago. I was driving down some of the same streets on maps I had studied thoroughly, but apparently not thoroughly enough. I saw the street that went by the American Tobacco Campus, Corcoran, which becomes Blackwell. Unfortunately, from looking the map once I returned, it appears that I decided to turn in the opposite direction from the one that would have taken me there.
I actually, in many ways, like getting lost. I find my poor sense of direction to be highly entertaining and I'm comfortable enough with driving such that I don't panic and fear that I'm going to end up in Virginia, no matter how close I've come to that in the past. It's also a great way to learn to find one's way around. Eventually. Downtown Durham is also actually quite pretty at night with everything lit up and is worth seeing, even when one isn't somewhat lost.
Eventually, I looped around and, with some brilliant deductive reasoning, figured that if I turned on E Chapel Hill Street, going west, I might end up on W Chapel Hill Street, so I could get on 147.
That worked out beautifully. Imagine that.
Friday, November 09, 2007
For various reasons, I don't tend to do a lot of things completely spontaneously. So, when out of the blue, a co-worker popped his head in my cube today, at 3:15pm, and told me that a really amazing West African musician was going to perform upstairs in 45 minutes and that I should go, I didn't immediately jump at the idea. I was just in the process of copying some scripts to our production system and I needed to find out if everything were still working. Ten minutes before the start of the concert, it was clear that several co-workers were going, even my boss after I mentioned it to him, so I felt more confident in my decision.
Mamadou Diabate, originally from Mali, performed several songs on his kora in the library's Rare Book Room. I ended up sitting on the front row, so I would be able to see up close. The kora is made out of a large-hollowed half gourd, strung with twenty-one strings. At first the sound somehow reminded me almost of a harpsichord, which is not the sound one expects to emanate from a gourd. The instrumental music was somewhat meditative and my mind wandered while focusing intently on the rapid playing of his thumbs and index fingers. This beautiful and unwritten music is traditionally passed down from father to son such that they are as much historians as musicians.
Diabate, a professional musician, who has been nominated for a grammy and has won other awards, now lives in Durham. If you happen to hear about a concert, I encourage you to be spontaneous and attend.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Monday night, I went to Blu Seafood & Bar again. Monday? That seems so long ago.
This time, as predicted, I had a serving of the shrimp and grits, all to myself. It was wonderful. It has this incredible nutty flavor. I'm just still astounded that they make grits that taste so good, considering that I don't like grits.
Here you can see how the chocolate fondue has changed since late September. That night, they replaced the fresh strawberries, blueberries and dried papaya with graham crackers, nuts and marshmallows. They were s'mores waiting to happen. I happen to love marshmallows, so I ate more than my fair share, just dipped in the chocolate. The chocolate fondue is nominally for two people, but it was actually more than the the three of us could eat.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
As I've mentioned, several of my co-workers and I recently read Best of Enemies, by Osha Gray Davidson. We were inspired by the book (and our director) to drive around Durham, looking at several of the historic sites mentioned in the book. PM and I did some research and planned the route, using a lot of information from Endangered Durham.
Yesterday, we took two vans filled to the brim with a total of twelve people and actually drove around town. It was a beautiful day for it, too. I'm not sure making stops to walk around or getting out for inter-van communication would have been as pleasant during the six summer months.
First we drove around downtown, focusing on West Parrish street, also referred to as "Black Wall Street", which was the location of what were once some of the most successful black owned businesses in the world. Unfortunately, we couldn't park close enough to the old NC Mutual building, but we had a brief consultation with the other van at the corner of Main and Mangum. While I was waiting, I had a nice view of what I think is one of the coolest buildings in town, the Kress building, which is a fine representation of art deco architecture. You can see some of the details if you look at a larger size of the image. Driving around downtown and observing the revitalization is remarkable to me, because I remember countless drives when I was a kid where I would see street after street filled with vacant buildings. Actual restaurants were unheard of, much less successful ones. It's really coming along now.
Next we drove past the American Tobacco Campus and drove through part of Hayti to North Carolina Central University. We looped around and then drove to the parking lot of the St. Joseph's AME church, which is now the Hayti Heritage Center. At least, that was the plan. I drove right by it. Once I realized that I'd gone too far and my cell phone started ringing (a coincidence, I'm sure) we turned around and went back. It's a very interesting building in that Washington Duke, a patron of the church, is one of the featured subjects in the church's stained glass windows. I waited in the getaway van to save time, but I would be very interested in going inside to look someday.
We followed the excursion with a barbecue lunch from the Q-shack (Bullock's was closed) and an engaging discussion of the book and related topics. Overall, it was a wonderful experience. I found it pretty amazing in that I felt that I had already benefited a great deal from reading the book, attending the event on campus and reading Osha Davidson's comments on this blog. Learning even more about Durham and the historical buildings added yet another layer of learning that made me further appreciate living in a place that has such a rich and fascinating history.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Tomorrow, most of you have the opportunity to make a difference by exercising your right to choose the people who will lead your government. Our livelihood depends on your educated opinion.
I can't vote tomorrow, because I live outside the city limits and can't even vote in the municipal election. Please let me enjoy your voting vicariously. Regardless of where you are, just remember that I will only enjoy it if you vote Democratic.
If you live in Durham, please vote for Bell! If you are having trouble deciding or if you weren't planning on voting for Bell, check out Bull City Rising for more information.
I saw the Comet Holmes tonight. It's worth taking a look, particularly if you have binoculars. Looking at the night sky on a clear night is pretty neat even without a comet, but they are fairly essential for this, because it just looks kind of like a weird fuzzy star to the naked eye. Barry has the best directions I've seen on how to find it.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
The fall color seems a little late this year, likely due to that 90+ degree weather in October, but the maples and dogwoods, in particular, are starting to show off.
I went over to my parents' place late this morning to take some photos of a huge red maple in their yard. The closeup looked best, given the lighting.
This is the view just above their pond, which is currently covered in green scum. Fortunately, the rain we had did raise the water level some.
Here's another, much smaller, maple, that looks pretty spectacular. It was supposed to be a dwarf, but it's taller than their house now.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Last night I celebrated Halloween with my friends on West Club Boulevard by helping them hand out candy to over 583 kids. Ok, I mostly watched, ate wonderful food and scared a few. I did point some in the right direction when they thought I had custody of the candy. The most adorable little ones had no idea what was going on and had no idea what they were supposed to be doing. The important thing was that their parents seemed to be enjoying it even more than the kids, even when they're older.
Here are a bunch of photographs I took last night. You might even recognize one of the kids that dressed up.