Monday, September 29, 2008

El Greco to Velazquez at the Nasher

I recently went to the El Greco to Velazquez exhibit at Duke's Nasher art museum. I thoroughly enjoyed the visit and would definitely recommend it. Duke employees can buy tickets for $5 and can get two tickets per ID. It normally costs $20 per ticket, so now is the time to become friends with Duke employees.

I just picked up my copy of Janson (burning 300 calories) and saw that two of the panintings featured in the exhibit are in my old art history textbook. I always think it's pretty cool to see works of art featured in there, right before my very eyes. While I was going through the exhibit, I was certain in a couple of cases that I was staring at the very paintings that I had studied so thorougly in that heavy tome. I was completely wrong, of course. It was two other paintings that were in there, but I still enjoyed the moment.

If you are an artist or appreciate art, you will love the glorious renditions of fabric in these paintings. I love drawing and painting pictures of fabric with all the folds and shadows. The rich colors used in early 17th century Spain were marvelous. These paintings are feasts for your eyes and are quite literally so when you see the still lifes. I tend to think of them as the equivalent of food photography.

Actually, those two paintings that were in my book are also featured in this slideshow from when the exhibit was at its only other location, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, earlier this year. Also, I did study the other paintings I was sure were in Janson, but I obviously paid more attention to my professor's slides, during class. Yes, I'm sure that was it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mourning Cloak

I was sniffling and sorting through some old magazines in my studio yesterday afternoon when I saw a strange shadow on the trunk of the oak tree I could see out the window. It fluttered off, so I thought it must be some sort of butterfly. Today I was doing something similar and decided to get out the binoculars. It was a Mourning Cloak! (Nymphalis antiopa) I'd never seen a real one before, just ones in photographs and magazines.

I went outside and determined fairly quickly that I was not going to be able to get close enough for a decent shot. A yellow jacket's sudden interest in my bare feet hastened this realization.

I called my MFRs and thankfully my 2nd MFR came over and took these lovely photographs. Fortunately it stayed in one place long enough for him to get here, so I was able to tell him exactly where it was.

This particular butterfly has always fascinated me when when I've read and looked at photos of it, because the edges of the wings look as if they have been gilded with gold leaf. I think it's just such a beautiful, elegant and mysterious looking butterfly.

One surprising characteristic to me was its comparatively large size. When I was a teenager and a much more prolific artist, I drew this colored pencil drawing of all kinds of different butterflies. Here you can see that, in comparison to the swallowtails, I did not draw the Mourning Cloak or likely many of the other butterflies to scale. Since my weird blue rays emanating from each one were so realistic, this is very disheartening.

You can see more cool photos of Mourning Cloak butterflies on Jeff Pippen's site.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mailing Lists!

I've been enjoying a lovely cold the last three days and haven't left the house, so I haven't had any grand dining experiences, although my Most Faithful Reader did make a big pot of chicken soup, which has been great.

I thought I would take the opportunity to remind my readers that a lot of restaurants have mailing lists that can inspire you to eat at their restaurants, cook something interesting or just be entertained. I look forward to ACME Food & Beverage Co. e-mail messages every week and the MFRs and I actually become alarmed if we don't receive one. Chef/owner Kevin Callaghan's writing is almost as good as his cooking. Well, maybe not, but he can be pretty funny.

General Manager Eryk Pruitt writes the Blu Seafood and Bar mailing list and keeps us up to date with all of their special events. For example, they are having a hurricane party on October 1st to mimic how residents of hurricane endangered locations cook all their food that would otherwise perish after they lose power. This party is an opportunity to eat, among other tasty things, frog legs. I think I like amphibians just a little too much, but it sounds like fun. A portion of the proceeds will go toward distaster relief.

I still subscribe to the mailing list for Tayst, which is a restaurant that I went to in Nashville a couple of years ago. As maybe one or two of you may recall, this is where I had bacon ice cream.
Well, they are having a special dinner that will feature Jerebob, a cow that was named after the chef/owner Jeremey and the sous chef, Bob. I'm not kidding. So, if you happen to be in the Nashville area on November 10th, you can pay your respects to or at least pay for a hearty portion of Jerebob.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Waffle House

At our last mini-tweetup, I revealed that I had never been to a Waffle House. It's actually pretty shocking considering how ubiquitous they are. @ayse, @abbyladybug, @davidb and @kitch thought the situation needed to be rectified, so this evening we met at the one just off the I-40 278 exit, on 55. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food, but I'm very fond of that kind of breakfast food. Actually, I'm pretty sure I like all breakfast food. That must be why I skip breakfast so often.

I got the All-Star breakfast special, which was way too much food for me, but I wanted to get a good sampling of what they had to offer. I was told by at least four people today that I needed to order the hashbrowns, which were great, particularly when they were really hot. It seemed as if I needed to order a waffle, since it was the Waffle House. I also got bacon, wheat toast and two over easy eggs. The bacon was really good, tender and flavorful. The tasty toast was pre-buttered so I didn't have to give into my health-conscious tendencies. (Yes, I do consider such things even with this sort of meal to add a little irony to my diet.) The eggs were cooked perfectly. The waffle was the first non-Belgian waffle that I've had in a good long while, but I enjoyed that, too. All in all, it was a fine meal and better than breakfasts I've had in some other local dining establishments lately. I wasn't expecting much at all from a culinary standpoint, but I will be happy to go back again.

The service was great, too. The staff was extraordinarily friendly and attentive. The company I was with, well... they were awfully inconsiderate by making me laugh as often as they did. Couldn't they tell I was trying to eat?!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Talk Like A Pirate Day Tattoo Parlor

Talk Like A Pirate Day Tattoo Parlor from Lenore Ramm on Vimeo.

We take the observance of Talk Like a Pirate Day very seriously where I work, so yesterday afternoon my cubical was transformed into a temporary tattoo parlor as we pasted pirate themed tattoos to ourselves. It involved lots of giggling, of course.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Eastern Lights Blogging: Mandarin Chicken

I was having lunch with the Picky Omnivore at Eastern Lights today and ordered Mandarin Chicken. It's basically spicy-sweet fried white-meat chicken with random veggies. It was my favorite dish for years. I'm afraid I forgot to photograph my bowl of hot and sour soup. PO ordered some Singapore noodles and I swear it was the best smelling dish that I've smelled in forever. I'm hoping to have more of that soon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Six Plates Blogging: Flight of Passion Fruit

Have you had the passion fruit sorbet at Six Plates Wine Bar yet? I met a couple of other food bloggers there this evening and had a flight of sorbet. Instead of trying three different flavors, I had, yes had, to get three scoops of passion fruit. It was wonderful. It was delightful. It was really good. I also had another pot of French press decaf, which was excellent as well. We spent the entire time talking about cooking and eating in Durham, so I had a very good time, indeed.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sushi Love Blogging: Nigiri

Before the puppet show, Saturday night, a friend and I had dinner at Sushi Love. We decided that we would try their 2-for-1 special with individual nigiri pieces, instead of rolls. It's a good deal, but if you get carried away it's still not cheap, by any means. I'd tried one of their crab wontons when a bunch of us got the boat load, so I suggested that we start off with an order of them as an appetizer. I love these things and I don't normally get excited about similar fried crab things at other Asian restaurants.

We got a lot of nigiri. We got too much nigiri. My friend had forgotten that you get two pieces with every order. Oh dear. We gave it the good fight, but we still had two pieces left when we were finished. It was very sad.

I ordered raw scallop nigiri for the first time. I'd had small pieces in rolls before, but not large slabs of raw scallop. It tasted very scallopy. Unlike many things that actually taste completely different when they are raw compared to their cooked state (e.g. tuna), this tasted the same and had a similar texture, but the flavor was much stronger.

We got some tuna, toro (fatty tuna) and some special otoro (fattier tuna). It's funny that I'm finding that I'm enjoying tuna more and more. I used to think it was boring, but I've been eating so much tuna tartare and sashimi at Blu that I'm really beginning to appreciate the subtleties and smooth texture of the fish. I'd tried toro before and was unenthused, but this time I liked both toro and otoro quite a bit.

Did Sushi Love pass the mackerel test? I'd say yes. It was very good, but maybe not quite as fantastic as Kurama's mackerel. I also wanted to try the raw squid, because I'd never had that before either, but they were out. That gives me something to look forward to!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Taverna Nikos Blogging: Soft Shell Crabs and New Desserts

Taverna Nikos had an excellent soft shelf crab and grilled chicken special a few nights ago. I asked to have all crabs instead of chicken. Four, yes four, soft shell crabs in one meal is pretty amazing. I took two of them home and I had them for lunch today. They were delicious and in a tomato and feta sauce, served with cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini and rice. All were good. There were also carrots, but I don't eat cooked carrots, so I'll never know just how good they were.

They have a couple of new desserts, including flogera, which was a very dense roll of nuts and pastry, dipped in chocolate. I definitely liked it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Paperhand Puppet Intervention

This evening I went to see Paperhand Puppet Intervention's performance of "I Am An Insect", which was held at the North Carolina Musuem of Art's 2700 seat open-air theatre. It's a nice venue that I'd never been to before. For most of the wheelchair accessible seating, if the person in a wheelchair brings others along, they need to bring their own chairs. There's one almost pier-like area, where I sat, that has chairs and even a few tables, but also had a thick wire mesh to keep people from leaping off. I kind of liked the notion of having a cage like thing protecting me from the rest of the crowd (or them from me), but it wasn't a clear view.

I really enjoyed it. While some parts were more exciting than others, over all, it was beautifully done. I liked the fact that it could be appreciated on various levels in that I'm sure that the many kids there enjoyed most of it, but the political and environmental commentary provided adults with some thought provoking material as well. For example,there was a solemn, yet elegant, reminder of the concerns of colony collapse disorder. I also found myself wondering how the creationists in the audience were enjoying the show.

Note that I'll have to remember that the flip camera did a much better job of capturing a highlight of the performance, given the action and the dim lighting. Other than the crowd shot, my blurry still photos aren't worth sharing.

New Raleigh has an extremely good review of the this year's performance. I will definitely be looking forward to seeing more exhibits of creativtiy from Paperhand Puppet Intervention during next year's season.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seeking New Life and New Civilizations

Several people, including Ginny and Jeni, have blogged about work refrigerators in the last few months. Most of them are disgusting or filled to the gills, at best. I've seen my share of new life forms in fridges at various work locations.

I was, therefore, particularly amused when I opened the refrigerator in our quasi-break room this morning. Actually, these types of "conversations" can often be found when opening quite a few doors and cabinets where I work. It's a perk. Note that when we have been able to easily identify life or the formerly alive things in the fridge, we've shut the door quickly and haven't stopped to write. Thanks to SA for helping me get a better shot of this!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Nantucket Grill Blogging: Shrimp and Sea Bass

On Saturday, my 2nd Most Faithful Reader and I went to Nantucket Grill. We wanted to pick up a Non-Blackened Blackened Salmon Salad for my Most Faithful Reader, who is still looking after FIFO. My 2nd MFR had the grilled shrimp, as he always does. The shrimp are great, but it's served with polenta. Some people like polenta.

I chose the Sea Bass, for $14.99. It was served with pineapple salad, green beans, and Yukon Gold roasted potatoes. From a sustainability standpoint, I should have asked, but the menu didn't say that it was Chilean Sea Bass, which should be avoided. In any case, it was quite good and the potatoes were great. I enjoyed my leftovers this evening

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Blueberry Muffins

I decided to make blueberry muffins today! It was the first time I'd ever made any kind of muffin. I've had this muffin pan for about 4 1/2 years, so I thought it was about time. I used the recipe from the Moosewood Cooks at Home. In some respects, it's a lousy muffin pan, because it's really not easy to grip the handles and get it out of the oven, at least with my annoying silicon potholders. In all other respects, the muffin tin, made by Wilton, seems to be fine. I have a standard sized Wilton muffin pan, too, which I have also never used.

Here's what the muffins looked like after baking. They looked pretty much the same, but I assure you that were "golden brown". They tasted extremely good and I was incredibly pleased. Unfortunately, I ate a few too many of them, but I'm excited that I have several left over to eat for breakfast this week!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Vita Blogging: Scampi

Last night, a bunch of friends and I went to Vita again. We thought we'd have our pick of restaurants, given that Hanna was already soaking the area and most people would want to stay home. We ended up having to wait for about 30 minutes at the bar before we got our table. The restaurant was infested with sorority girls and frat boys, who were having dinner parties.

Once we got our table, we had a very pleasant meal. I got shrimp scampi, with angel hair pasta, garlic and herbs. At $14, it's the most expensive item on their menu, which is pretty amazing. The menu didn't say anything about tomatoes, but it had a tomato based sauce, which I believe is kind of unusual for shrimp scampi, so it wasn't what I was expecting. I did enjoy it, though, and they did a nice job cooking the shrimp.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Blu Blogging: Crab Legs!

Tonight my 2nd Most Faithful Reader and I went out to Blu Seafood and Bar for another Crab Thursday. We started out by each having a bowl of the Dungeness Crab Gazpacho, at the Thursday night price of $6. We split an appetizer special, a crab spring roll with two tempuraed shrimp. Everything was excellent.

It had been an age and a half since I'd had crab legs. I don't even remember where I last ate them, but I remember it seemed as if it were a lot of work at the time. I think that's probably because they were overcooked and it was difficult to remove the meat. Tonight, we both got half a pound, each for just $7.50, and it was superbly cooked, making the crab meat extremely easy to remove. It was delicious and the melted butter wasn't even necessary.

After all that, I was, however, too stuffed to eat dessert, so I'm afraid there will be no Key Lime Pie Blogging tonight.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Plum Sorbet

I made plum sorbet from the Simply Recipes blog and it turned out beautifully. It really tasted like plums and, in my opinion, tasted even better than plums, if that makes any sense. I think that's because the strongest flavor from a plum is in its peel and peel particles are blended throughout the sorbet. It was also a lot less messy than eating a juicy-ripe plum.

I substituted one tablespoon of Cointreau for the Grand Marinier and the texture was the best of all the sorbet recipes I've tried so far. Since I'm still stubbornly refusing to use corn syrup in my sorbet, I may consider trying to add a little bit of alcohol to my other sorbet recipes, since it improved the texture so much.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Chrome Fodder

I know most of my readers have tried, are trying or are about to try Google Chrome. I also suspect that most of my readers are right on top of things when it comes to local or Durham blogs. So, as you explore what Chrome has to offer, why not check out some of my favorite blogs that are being written in other areas of the country?

From New Jersey, we have Thursday Night Smackdown, by Michelle, who writes what has to be the funniest food blog ever written. It's irreverent, the recipes look great and the photos look even better. I'm looking forward to trying out some of the recipes soon. Thanks to GEE for recommending this one!

From Vermont, we have Dohiyi Mir, written by NTodd, a college professor, professional photographer and a frequent commenter on Eschaton. His blog is full of wonderful pet photos, political commentary and tales of his valiant political protests. Note that NTodd does not like Ouzo. Thanks to MFR for recommending NTodd's blog several years ago.

Cool Tools is one of many blogs owned by Kevin Kelly, one of the co-founders of Wired Magazine. Readers of the Cool Tools blog provide one review of a cool and useful tool per day and where to purchase it. It's amazing just how many tools I've found that I needed and didn't know it. Hmm. Perhaps you should be careful when looking at this one. I don't know how I ran across this blog, but I'm very glad that I did.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Cakes and Creepy Stacks

Last Thursday, Duke Libraries had an opening celebration for the completion of the renovations of the second, third and fourth floors of the portion of the Perkins Library building that was originally built in 1968. Those of you who remember the "creepy" stacks will have a hard time finding them now. You may still get lost, since the changes are a little disorienting, but you won't mind it nearly as much.

We celebrated with two beautiful cakes from Mad Hatter's, which is now owned by Saladelia. I got in between the cake and a large knife in order to share this photo with you. I actually didn't try either the strawberry or the chocolate cake, but I heard that they were very good. That's right, I found photographing them more satisfying than the idea of actually eating them. There's something a little sick about that, I think.