august update

after reviewing my calendar for the last 5 weeks (!) of activities, i once again find that this post will be mostly about the food. i guess the title of the blog would lead one to think that anyway.

back in july, my mother and sister went down to cincinatti for a few days to visit an old family friend. this gave my dad and i the opportunity to have lunch together. we chose to go to fat cats, which is related to the lava lounge, reviewed here last month. also located in tremont, this room has a little more polished feel to it. there is still the antique ambiance going on, with a massive old wooden bar and exposed brick, but with the addition of modernist lighting and cloth napkins. i think they strike a nice balance. the service was also on target, with just the right mix of friendliness and professionalism.

[i am SO OVER servers who introduce themselves to your table and, in some instances I have experienced, actually sit down at the table with you while they take your order. frankly, i am paying you to stand up and do the work for me, mr./ms. waitron. i don’t find it charming that you want to get to know me personally while i am a patron in your restaurant. and while i’m on my soapbox, i also don’t get restaurants where you have to assemble your own dinner (i.e. stir crazy at legacy village). the whole idea of going up through a cafeteria line and picking out what you want someone to stirfry for you is anathema to me. i have all the choices i need on a printed menu at my table. with the exception of buffets (which hold a special place in this household’s collective heart), i go out to restaurants for the specific purpose of having someone prepare food and bring it to me while i sit and relax. for this same reason, i am not a fan of fondue restaurants or grill-it-yourself restaurants. the whole point, for me, is that someone else does all the work…preferably in the back. i am willing to pay for the privelege of just sitting and letting someone wait on me.] but i digress…..

back to fat cats…. after the reqisite martinis (yes, even at lunch my dad and I like a spot of ketel one), i had a most delicious piece of salmon. no fancy sauces or flourishes…just a perfectly fresh piece of fish, sauteed to a crisp and with a meltingly tender interior. accompanied by a lovely little saute of summer vegetables, it was simply yummy. we finished with a disgustingly rich chocolate cake with a liquid center, served with vanilla ice cream. we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I would go back.

the next week featured birthday meals for both my sister and my dad. for the former, my mother prepared high tea at her house. she has been having tea for years, so she has lots of lovely dishes and napery and even the individual silver tea strainers that are de rigeur in jolly old england. we started with tiny little sandwiches with the crusts cut off, filled with egg salad, chicken salad and salmon salad. then there were oatmeal raisin scones, served with strawberry jam, english butter and clotted cream. then came the desserts: miniature tarts filled with lemon curd and blueberries or with strawberry jam. there were also chocolate dipped strawberries…and i’m sure the was more that i’m not remembering. this is all served with endless cups of tea, both hot and iced. and like any good, grownup tea, there was also a choice of cocktails and a glass of champagne with dessert!

a few days later, we met at my sister’s house to celebrate my father’s 77th birthday. the menu was the exact opposite of the previous one. we started with a big pitcher of martinis and some nibbles that included shrimp cocktail and a caprese salad. then there were ribeye steaks from the grill (my brother-in-law is a master with the weber), baked potatoes with sour cream and chives and grandma’s garden salad (cukes, tomatoes from my garden, sweet onion and herbs). for dessert there was a magnificent 4 layer german chocolate cake. it was a great meal! the weather was perfect, too, so we got to enjoy the whole thing on my sister’s patio.

the next morning, tony and i left for pittsburgh to celebrate his birthday. we went to kennywood, which is his first choice for spending his b-day. we had a grand old time, riding the whip and visiting noah’s ark; eating french fries from the potato patch; and just people watching. it was quite hot, though, so we didn’t stay too late. the next day we traipsed around through the downtown and then went out to ikea. we ended up spending about 3.5 hours in there, which i just loved. tony was extremely patient with me, allowing me to stop and look at just about every display.

while we were there, i got the call that my condo had been sold. i came back to a flurry of paper signing and i am so glad to be done with that. it was a great place to live, but the $400 a month assessment was a real killer, especially once i moved out. the whole process went very quickly. i think it was about 6 weeks from listing to closing. not bad, considering how soft the condo market is right now. all these funds have been applied to our principal on the house. if we choose to, we can have the house paid off by 2009. what a relief that would be!

we are quite at home here now. we have all the pictures on the walls and it feels like ours. we still have a bit of furniture arranging to accomplish, but it will all happen in due time. we have continued to entertain friends and that goes a long way towards making it home. we are going to have a housewarming next month, and the menu will be all desserts. i’ve learned my lesson, though, and i’ll buy at least as much as i make this time around. what with working 50 hours/week, i am not going to kill myself trying to make everything from scratch.

we have some trips planned for the fall, as well. i will be going to new york in september for a couple of days. i have learned that when i visit manhattan, i spend, on average, about $400 per day. i usually have at least a couple of white tablecloth meals, plus there’s the requisite shopping. so this time i am going to limit my time there to under 48 hours. it’s been two years since i was there and i look forward to seeing the city again. it always reminds me of what a great place it is…and how glad i am that i don’t actually live there.

tony and i will be going to seattle in october, too. (both of these trips are courtesy of frequent-flyer miles. we wanted to use them up before the airlines go bust and take all those free trips with them!) he has friends there that we can stay with, and i have been in touch with an old friend from college that lives there now. it will be fun to have people that we know to visit with, as well as having a city to explore. and then there’s the food. seattle is a mecca for foodies and i am making the pilgrimage. tony has promised to take me to dinner at crush, which i read about in a magazine and actually showed up in the paper there today. i can’t wait—the week should just be an orgy of food.

on a related note, i have been watching the new julia child dvd. it includes some of her earliest shows, shot in black and white and completely un-edited. they are absolutely hilarious, especially when she starts ad-libbing. (read with accent:“here’s a swiss salad spinner that you might want to get. it’s made by little old swiss ladies in tennis shoes and it’s absolutely marvelous!”) these are the shows that i remember watching as a kid…the ones that really got me interested in cooking and eating. they have a genuine quality that you just don’t find in today’s highly stylized, carefully crafted food shows. sometimes these look like some sort of music video, with soft focus, lush music and over-produced scripts. julia was just up there showing us how to cook: nothing more, nothing less. i am savoring each episode i watch.

last week i had dinner again with another jason. we ventured to the southside restaurant. a very nice vintage room, with a big long bar and a patio. given that we were still suffering through the heatwave, we chose to sit inside in the front window. they basically removed the front of the building and put in a wall of glass. it was a very nice effect. i had a perfect little hanger steak with some delicious frites. i find that i am really enjoying ordering this meal in a variety of restaurants, almost always accompanied by a martini. it’s quite grown up and distinctly american. when done right, it’s a pleasure. and i get to feel like i am tapping into some sort of food nostalgia. afterwards, we stopped by the honey hut for ice cream. (if you have not been there yet, close this browser window, get in your car and go there now.) this time, in addition to the raspberry sundae that’s normally on their menu, they also had a blackbery sundae. i strayed from my turtle sundae tradition and was rewarded with a dish of vanilla ice cream buried under an avalanche of fresh berries in a light syrup. it tasted like a big serving of summer. despite the steak diner already in my belly, i managed to polish off the whole thing!

the last piece of news that i have came a couple days ago. months ago, the pentagon produced a list of military bases and facilities that it wanted to close as part of a cost-cutting sweep. tony’s office was included on that list. this list was sent to the base re-alignment and closure commision, which has been studying it ever since. well, yesterday they got around to voting on the individual entries on the list, deciding what would be closed and what would be spared. thank heavens tony’s office was saved!!! he will have a job for the forseeable future. we are quite relieved that we can stay here and that he can keep on working. whew!!!



it's meme time!

here are my five questions from jay...who got it from usendroy, etc. if this interests you, see below.

1. If you could change one misperception/misconception people have about you, would you?
DEFINITELY! I am one of those shy people who gets misinterpreted as being snobby or condescending.

2. Describe your perfect evening.
After spending the afternoon getting a hot stone massage, I would come home for a long soak in the tub. Then Tony and I would head out to dinner. We would have hired a car, so neither of us had to bother with driving. After stopping at Pier W for a drink overlooking the lake, we would move on to dinner at the Ritz. Rather than dining at the Century, we would have pre-arranged an elaborate series of courses to be served in our suite upstairs. Our private waiter (an under-employed future model) would wait in the hall for us to signal our readiness for the next plate. After 8 or 9 courses, we would call it to a halt and climb back in the car to head out for dessert at the Honey Hut. (Fresh blackberry sundaes—yummm!)
Alternatively, my perfect evening has already happened. It began with dinner at the Hometown Buffet and ended with Tony accepting my proposal of marriage.

3. If you could have a dream vacation that kept you from home for one year, what plans would you have to make for your home/pets/garden?
That would be simple. At this pint we don’t have any pets (save for a couple of houseplants) and the garden is virtually non-existent. I would invite my friend Captain Saint Lucifer to come and live here rent free. She could avoid the hideous commute she endures each day. I know that she would take exqusite care of our home. I’ll bet that we would come home to find it cleaner than we left it, and way more organized!!

4. Think back to the best dining experience you ever had. What made it so special?
Oh, gosh…there have been so many over the years. Invariably, though, when I think of the top ones, it ends up being as much about the company as about the food. My first experience at Chanterelle in New York (at age 23) was also my first real night out on the town with my father where I felt like a grownup. Dinner at Lutece about a year later with 3 fellow employees from Dean and Deluca made me realize I was, in fact, a food professional. One of my dining companions from that evening, my dear friend Drew, has continued to sit down to a series of white tablecloth meals with me ever since. Whether in New York, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Boston or Chicago, he has been there over and over again. This is a big part of the bond that we share. Rather than the presence of caviar, foie gras or truffles, it’s more about the sharing of these meals with people who are important to me.

5. What one silly thing do you do when you think no one is watching?
Spend hours googling up the names of people I have known over the years…from grade school on up.

1. If you want to participate, leave a comment below saying “Interview me.” You must leave your blog address so I can think of challenging questions for you.
2. I will respond by asking you five questions - each person’s will be different. I’ll post the questions in the comments section of this post. I’m going to limit this to three people, to both hedge my bets and to make sure this doesn’t take over my life.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
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