Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Big, Bad Book of Beasts Review

The Big, Bad Book of Beasts by Michael Largo

Largo has created a modern day bestiary.  It is an encyclopedia of animals both real and legend.  It is full of fascinating, fun facts about animals of all kinds.




I have no idea how Largo picked the animals that he put in the book.  It runs from ants and bears to extinct animals like the dodo and the tyrannosaurus rex, there are myths and legends like the phoenix and trolls and cryptids like the chupacabra and the Jersey devil.  There is a little bit of everything.  There are animals I am familiar with and ones I have never heard of before.  I learned a lot of new things even about the animals I thought I knew well.  You get from a few paragraphs to a few pages about each animal.  There is information like life span and habitat and more specific information like how many times a woodpecker will bang his head against a tree in one day.  He explores were myths about animals (even real ones) started and what animal might have been misidentified to start rumors of nonexistent animals.  If you are doing some kind of research I don’t know how much this would help you.  But if you just like to learn about animals it is a great book to visit off and on and read an entry or two.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday 56 and Book Beginnings (Nov. 11)

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.


Book Beginning is hosted by Rose City Reader. All you have to do is share the opening line of the book you're reading and what you think about it. Check out the other posts here.





My book this week is The Double Game by Dan Fesperman.  A lover of spy novels all of a sudden finds himself in the middle of spy mystery straight out of the cold war.

Book Beginnings:

The Great Man himself was waiting for me on the phone.

The Friday 56:

The transaction is blessedly simple: Purchase one cup of coffee - pricey, but only if you intend to gulp it down and leave - and in exchange you may linger as long as you like.  Your waiter, dressed in a dinner jacket, won't even give you a dirty look, but he will attend to your every need without complaint.  Tip him generously and he probably won't even remember you were there to begin with, in case the authorities ask later.

Makes me want to go to Vienna.

I wasn't sure where this was going at first but it quickly got going.  Early on there are mysterious messages dropped in his mail slot and strangers approaching him on the street.  And then builds from what seems like a game onto something far more serious.  It is filled with interesting characters whose loyalty is unknown and lots of suspense.  It would probably be more fun to read if I knew more about spy novels as they are referenced a lot.  But it does make you want to follow the puzzle along with our hero to figure out what is going on.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday 56 and Book Beginnings (Oct. 21)


The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.


Book Beginning is hosted by Rose City Reader. All you have to do is share the opening line of the book you're reading and what you think about it. Check out the other posts here.





My book this week is The Butcher Bird by S.D. Sykes.  Oswald is the new Lord of Somershill Manor and having trouble with his new position.  And then a baby is found dead in a thorn bush and the people are blaming a huge bird.  Oswald does not believe the bird exists and tries to find out who the real killer is.

Book Beginnings:

It was the tail end of the morning when the charges were laid before me and I would tell you I was tempted to laugh at first, for the story was nonsense.

Friday 56:

"I can't ride."  He then smiled.  A toothy and lopsided expression that was entirely disconcerting.  "My legs are too wide apart," he said, pointing at his groin.  "See. I can't grip the barrel of the beast.  I keep sliding off."

This is the second book in the series and I have not read the first one (Plague Land) so they keep talking about things that I don't know about.  I think it would help to understand the characters more if I had read the other book but the plot is not hard to follow.  I like it but I don't think I'll run out and get the first one.  By now I'm a little annoyed with Oswald.  They keep saying he is a great investigator but every time something suspicious happens he doesn't ask any questions about it.  

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Friday 56 and Book Beginnings (Oct. 14)

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.




Book Beginning is hosted by Rose City Reader. All you have to do is share the opening line of the book you're reading and what you think about it. Check out the other posts here.




My book this week is The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder.  One day, after over a century of use, a bridge breaks causing the death of five people.  Brother Juniper, who witnessed the incident, sets out to prove that there was divine design even in this by finding out all he can about the people who died on the bridge.

Book Beginnings:

On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.

I think this is a pretty good first sentence.  Because now I want to know who they were and why he's telling me this.  And isn't that the point?  To get people to want to read on.  

Friday 56:

What relationship is it in which few words are exchanged, and those only about the details of food, clothing, and occupation; in which the two persons have a curious reluctance even to glance at one another; and in which there is a tacit arrangement not to appear together in the city and to go on the same errand by different streets?  And yet side by side with this there existed a need of one another so terrible that it produces miracles as naturally as the charged air of a sultry day produces lighting.

This passage also makes me curious.  I want to know all about these people he's talking about.  I'm liking this one so far.  Each part is about a different person that was on the bridge when it broke.  So it kind of has a short story feel to it but all the stories end the same way.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Consider the Fork Review

Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson

(from the book jacket)
Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious – or at least edible.  Tools shape what we eat, but they have also transformed food.  Technology in the kitchen does not just mean the Pacojets and sous-vide of the modernist kitchen.  It can also mean the humbler tools of everyday cooking and eating: a wooden spoon and a skillet, chopsticks and forks.

In Consider the Fork, award winning food writer Bee Wilson provides a wonderful and witty tour of the evolution of cooking around the world, revealing the hidden history of everyday objects we often take for granted.  Knives – perhaps our most important gastronomic tool – predate the discovery of fire, whereas the fork endured centuries of ridicule before gaining widespread acceptance; pots and pans have been around for millennia, while plates are a relatively recent invention.  Many once-new technologies have become essential elements of any well-stocked kitchen – mortars and pestles, serrated knives, stainless steel pots, refrigerators.  Others have proved only passing fancies, or were supplanted by better technologies; one would be hard pressed now to find a water-powered egg whisk, a magnet-operated spit roaster, a cider owl, or a turnspit dog.  Although many tools have disappeared from the modern kitchen, they have left us with traditions, tastes, and even physical characteristics that we would never have possessed otherwise.

Blending history, science, and anthropology, Wilson reveals how our culinary tools and tricks came to be, and how their influence has shaped modern food culture.  The story of how we have tamed fire and ice and wielded whisks, spoons, and graters, all for the sake of putting food in our mouths, Consider the Fork is truly a book to savor.




I like to read books about food, cooking and culinary science but this one is different from the others I’ve read.  This one focuses on the tools used to cook and eat the food.  Each chapter deals with a different technology; knife, grind, measure, eat, etc.  It’s interesting to see how the way food is cooked and eaten changes the culture of a people, and in some cases the people themselves.  It talks about how location made a difference in how people cooked and ate.  It goes into how as the cooking methods changed so did the diet of the people using it.  It shows why some things have endured the test of time while others have been lost to history.  There is science, history and anthropology all here.  I like all those things, and when you add the food angle it pushes this book over the top for me.  So I really enjoyed reading this one.  Wilson has an easy writing style that makes it a quick, engaging read.  You learn a lot without it feeling like you are reading a text book because there is a good balance between explanation and story.  And that makes this good for everyone regardless of previous knowledge.  It is a very approachable book for anyone who ever wondered how the fork came about or when knives lost the sharp edge and became butter knives.  There are a lot of questions answered that I hadn’t even thought to ask.  And it is a new look at a lot of things we find in our kitchen that we take for granted.

Weekend Cooking is sponsored by Beth Fish Reads. Be sure to check out the other posts here.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday 56 and Book Beginnings (Oct. 7th)

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.


Book Beginning is hosted by Rose City Reader. All you have to do is share the opening line of the book you're reading and what you think about it. Check out the other posts here.

My book this week is Queen of the Dark Chamber by Christiana Tsai.  It is the autobiography of Christiana Tsai who grew up in China and suffered great persecution when she became a Christian.

Book Beginnings:

It was the twelfth day of the second month, and all over China, people were celebrating the Birthday of the Flowers, by tying red strips of cloth on the trees and bushes.

This sounds like a happy beginning.  Somehow I knew it wasn't going to be all Birthday of Flower celebrations though.

Friday 56:

Rumors spread that the god of the locomotive demanded human sacrifices.

I'm just getting to the part where she is having to choose between the easy life she has been living and the new inner peace she has found. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Outrun the Dark Review

Outrun the Dark by Cecilia Bartholomew

Billyjean’s little brother was killed by a blow to the head with a wrench.  Everyone said Billyjean did it, so she was put into a mental institution when she was only eight.  Thirteen years later they let her go home.  But she still doesn’t remember doing it.




Billiejean, a little eight year old girl is caught standing over the body of her little brother holding the wrench that killed him.  She spends the next thirteen years of her life in a mental hospital.  For those thirteen years she is told that she killed her little brother, Bubber, and she will have to face the reality of that and admit it before she will be well enough to go home.  The only problem is she doesn’t remember doing it.  And when she finally gets to go home there are people who tell her they don’t believe that she did.  In truth the mystery here isn’t much of a mystery.  Not to the reader anyway.  You can guess what happened pretty early on.  The book becomes not about what happened to Bubber but what is going to happen to Billiejean now.  She is both still eight years old and a woman of twenty-one.  You see the world through Billiejean’s eyes as she tries to navigate through her new world.  She is confused and scared and does not know how to behave.  She tries desperately to do what is expected of her so people will think she is normal and well but at the same time she does not believe it herself.  You also get to see how the characters around Billiejean deal with her coming home, her father is desperate as he tries to explain himself, her mother is worried what everyone thinks but wants to do right by Billiejean, and the neighbors don’t know what is best for Billiejean or how to help.  It is a story about the emotional and psychological responses of the whole neighborhood to this one event that engulfed and changed so many lives so profoundly.  Even though you feel like you know what happened to Bubber, Billiejean is still not sure herself and her search and what the outcome and consequences of it will be leave you with lots of doubts.  You want to know if Billiejean can pull through this whole.  You want to know if anyone will be there for her at the end.  I think it failed to make Bubber the mystery it had intended but it is still a tense and emotional story about Billiejean’s struggle to find her life again.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Magic Meets Custard

Magic 3 Layer Custard Cake (From One Batter)

I browse recipes online all the time, following links from one place to another, starting out looking at a recipe for snickerdoodles and ending up printing out a recipe for trout.  So I have no idea how I came across this recipe.  I certainly wasn’t looking for a Magic 3Layer Custard Cake since I had no idea it existed.  But I ended up on Recipe Tin Eats looking at this.  And it looked really cool and like I could pass it off as a lot of work even if it isn’t.  Besides, custard of all sorts is awesome.  If you want to try it go here.


After the whites are 'folded' in
Like all custards it is mostly milk and eggs.  You have to separate the eggs and beat the whites.  You set them aside and mix the rest of the ingredients together.  Starting with beating the yolks with the sugar and ending with the lukewarm milk.  This has to be done at a low speed to avoid splashing because basically what you have by this time is a bowl of milk.  Then you have to fold in the egg whites.  I have no idea how to fold egg whites into a liquid.  I did the best I could but ended up less folding it in than breaking up the clumps into smaller clumps.  So then I had a bowl of milk with egg whites floating on top.  It said not to worry if there were lumps of egg white so I decided to just go with it and see what happened.

it does not look yummy yet
much better after it's baked
In the pan and then in the oven it went.  About 50 minutes later out it came.  I let it cool.  I had a little more trouble getting it out of the pan than the recipe led me to believe that I would.  But it did come out and stayed in one piece and held its shape.  The consistency reminded me of a Jell-O Jiggler.  When it was cut you could clearly see the three layers.  The top, which had most of the egg whites, was airy.  The middle layer was like custard in a custard pie.  The bottom layer was tougher than the others, slightly chewy, and gave the impression of a crust even though there isn’t one. 




It was delicious.  It was very much like a custard pie but I didn’t have to mess with a pie crust (which is not my strong suit) so I was happy about that.  It’s easy to make (especially after making it once and knowing what to expect.)  And it can sit in the fridge for a couple of days and you don’t have to worry about the crust getting soggy.  It was a hit with my family.  And the three layers makes it look cool too.  I think I’ll be making this again.






Weekend Cooking is sponsored by Beth Fish Reads.  Be sure to check out the other posts here.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday 56 and Book Beginnings (Sept. 30)

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.


Book Beginning is hosted by Rose City Reader.  All you have to do is share the opening line of the book you're reading and what you think about it.  Check out the other posts here.





My book this week is The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham.  It is about a man who leaves his family to paint and the toll his obsession takes on him and those around him.

Beginning:

I confess that when first I made acquaintance with Charles Strickland I never for a moment discerned that there was in him anything out of the ordinary.

It sounds like no one did.  Maybe that's why he up and left.

Friday 56:

It was tantalizing to get no more than hints into a character that interested me so much.  It was like making one's way through a mutilated manuscript.  I received the impression of a life which was a bitter struggle against every sort of difficulty; but I realized that much which would have seemed horrible to most people did not in the least affect him.

I haven't actually gotten this far in the book yet but this does make me wonder what sort of horrible things he's talking about.  I've never read anything by Maugham before and this one hasn't really grabbed me yet.  I will stick with it and hope that this little snippet is a sign of good things to come.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Do Some Good

At Greater Good you can help out with just a click of the mouse.  Just click on the button on the top of the page to give to the cause mentioned there.  (As I write this it is trying to raise money to build a school for children in Senegal.)  Then make sure to click on the tabs for the other causes as well.  They will each have their own button for you to push.

If you want to give even more there are plenty of ways you can donate money directly or you can just shop.  Choose the site for the cause you would like to help and shop to your heart's content.  A portion of the money you spend will go to help out the cause you have chosen.

And if you need a new pair of shoes or a new coat make sure to check out the get one, give one section.  With your purchase of one of the selected items they will donate one to someone in need.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Soon I Will Be Invincible Review

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman

(from the book jacket)
Doctor Impossible – evil genius, diabolical scientist, wannabe world dominator – languishes in a federal detention facility.  He’s lost his freedom, his girlfriend, and his hidden island fortress.

Over the years he’s tried to take over the world in every way imaginable: doomsday devices of all varieties (nuclear, thermonuclear, nanotechnological) and mass mind-control.  He’s traveled backward in time to change history, forward in time to escape it.  He’s commanded robot armies, insect armies, and dinosaur armies.  Fungus army.  Army of fish.  Of rodents.  Alien invasions.  All failures.  But not this time.  This time it’s going to be different…

Fatale is a rookie superhero on her first day with the Champions, the world’s most famous superteam.  She’s a patchwork woman of skin and chrome, a gleaming technological marvel built to be the next generation of warfare.  Filling the void left by a slain former member, Fatale joins a team struggling with a damaged past, having to come together in the face of unthinkable evil.





Superheroes and supervillians.  I think this is very much a niche book.  If you aren’t already into the comic book thing than this is not for you.  The chapters switch back and forth between Doctor Impossible, the supervillian, and Fatale, the new member of the world’s greatest superhero team.  I like the change in perspective because it gives the story a well-rounded feel.  You get to see the story from both sides.  Unfortunately a lot of the characters are just not personable and failed to engender either my sympathy or concern and sometimes they couldn't even get my interest.  Especially the superheroes.  So I found myself more interested in the chapters about Doctor Impossible and looking forward to them while I was reading the others.  So instead of understanding both sides and having that wonderful conflict where you want both sides to win I was completely on Doctor Impossible’s side.  I did like that this is not an origin story.  The characters all have a long past and are established in the world that Grossman has created.  You get a sense of that history but the story is about what their lives are like after years of dealing with and living in the fight.  It’s a little uneven and some of the characters are annoying at times but it’s fun and exciting with world domination, super powers, epic battles, complicated gizmos and all that great comic book stuff.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

D.C. eats - Birch and Barley

I went on a trip to Washington D.C. recently and Birch and Barley was just down the street from my hotel. For some reason it caught my eye and I decided to go there for dinner one night. I think this place might be too hip, or trendy (?) for me. I don't know the right word. But it is lots of wood and brick and glass globe oil lamps on the walls and clear plastic chairs. And it is very dark. Not just dim, but it's hard to see what I'm eating dark. But maybe I just felt a little uncomfortable because I got there right when they opened and there was no one else there. Which was a surprise to me. Because when I went to Open Table to make a reservation and tried to get a table at 6:00 I was told that I could only get a table at 5:30 as nothing else was available. So I expected it to be, if not full, at least busy. And I don't like really crowded restaurants. But I don't like to be the only one in a place either. I guess there is just no pleasing me. Other people did start to come in a little later which did make me feel less self-conscience. 

I was seated and handed quite a few menus. They have a huge beer list. I like beer but I don't know all that much about it to be honest. So I was happy to see that they had the beer broken out by taste (fruity, hops, malty) to give me some place to start.  The complimentary bread included a pretzel bread that came with a mustard spread. It was good (if you like pretzels) and I thought it was a nice touch to go with the beer heavy menu.



My waiter explained all the menus for me and recommended the nettle garganelli (which I figured out was some sort of pasta which I had never heard of) which came in two sizes so it could be either an appetizer or an entree. I would have never ordered anything with nettle in the name on my own. It just sounds like something I wouldn't want to put in my mouth. But I did end up getting it as an appetizer. It was good. The corn was a nice fresh sweet taste that helped temper the onion so it didn't overpower the dish and the pasta was cooked al dente so it still had a good bite to it which I enjoyed. The only problem is I'm still not sure what nettle taste like. With all the flavors in the dish I didn't know which was the nettle. So I don't know if I like nettle but the dish was still good so it can’t be too bad.

For my entrée I got the pork ribs with gochujang and green apple-daikon slaw. They were pretty good. Fall off the bone tender. The gochujang had a nice spicy kick and the cool, creamy slaw was a nice counter point to that. I found the plate a little small so it was a little tricky pulling the meat off the bone without pushing things off onto the table. But I managed and enjoyed them.

For dessert I couldn’t pass up the funnel cake. It was good. I mean, it was sugary deep fried dough, how could it not be. But it wasn’t anything special and felt like something I could get at the fair. The staff was friendly enough and my waiter was happy to help me work through the beer menu. Altogether I was left with a neutral reaction to the experience. There was nothing that I was particularly disappointed about but there was also nothing that would pull me back.




Weekend Cooking is sponsered by Beth Fish Reads. Be sure to visit the other posts. You can find them on the Linky here.



Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I Am No One Review

I Am No One by Patrick Flanery

(from the back of the book)
After a decade living in England, Jeremy O’Keefe returns to New York, where he has been hired as a professor of German history at New York University. Though comfortable in his new life, and happy to be near his daughter once again, Jeremy continues to feel the quiet pangs of loneliness.  Walking through the city at night, he feels as though he could disappear and no one would even notice.

But soon, Jeremy’s life begins taking strange turns: boxes containing records of his online activity are delivered to his apartment, a young man seems to be following him, and his elderly mother receives anonymous phone calls slandering her son.  Why, he wonders, would anyone want to watch him so closely, and, even more upsetting, why would they alert him to the fact he was being watched?

As Jeremy takes stock of the entanglements that marked his years abroad, he wonders if he has unwittingly committed a crime so serious that he might soon be faced with his own denaturalization.  Moving toward a shattering reassessment of what it means to be free in a time of ever more intrusive surveillance, Jeremy is forced to ask himself whether he is “no one,” as he believes, or a traitor not just to his country but to everyone around him.




Flanery does a good job of creating an unsettling feeling.  You feel uneasy as you watch Jeremy start to examine his life.  All the people in his life start to have uncertain intentions.  Everything from his past starts to take on new significance.  He even starts to question his own sanity.  And it makes you think about how much privacy you have and if you have to act like you are being watched all the time, even if you are “no one.”  And it examines how something unexpected can make you question everything, even things you were completely sure of before.  Unfortunately I didn’t like Flanery’s style of writing.  He would go off on tangents that had nothing to do with the story.  Jeremy received a package that was about the same size as a cosmetics case his mother once had and he goes on for a paragraph about this case that has nothing to do with anything.  I can understand Jeremy, as the narrator, getting distracted by memories, but it happened a lot and they went on too long.  Then he would analyze simple things, like someone using his first name, or a look his daughter gave him, to death.  Again, some of it would be fine, but it is so much and mostly unrelated.  And Flanery tends to use really long sentences.  One page was a single sentence.  And I find, with sentences that long, it is easy to lose track of what is being said and to forget where it started.  So I liked the idea of this book more than I liked the way it was delivered.  It did hold my interest and keep me reading but since I wasn’t a fan of the way it was written I don’t see myself reading any Patrick Flanery in the future.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Friday 56 (Sept. 2)

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.

My book this week is Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar.  Nine experienced hikers go into the Ural mountains and never return.  Their bodies are found miles from the tent without shoes and sufficient clothes for the below freezing temperatures.  Why they would have fled the tent in this way remained a mystery for fifty years.

We stole glances at each other, registering our growing discomfort and both wondering at what point we could just stand up and leave.

Awwwwkward.  It must have been really hard to solve a mystery when you don't speak the language.  Especially when your translator is late.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Dine Out Week Boston Visit #3

 For my third and final Dine Out Week restaurant I went to Commonwealth Restaurant and Market.  And I found out that when you enter the address for the restaurant into Mapquest, Mapquest will tell you it can't find any such place.  And as someone who is terrible with directions and is always getting lost that is a little disturbing.  But I did manage to find the place.  At first glance it seems very long and to have a lot of doors.  So I picked one and walked into what must have been the market part in the name.  I didn't explore but it did seem to have a lot of wine.

There is a lot of wide open space, which I like because I often feel crowded in restaurants and I felt I had a lot of room here.  And there were a lot of windows so there was a lot of light.  The whole place was sort of rustic.  There were pallets on the walls, exposed rafters, wood plank tables.  But I didn't feel like I was in a barn or in a craft project.  Is there such a thing as modern rustic?  That's the feel I got.

 The complimentary bread was more a biscuit than a bread.  (That is not a complaint, just an observation.)  And came in a cute little pot.  For an appetizer I got the grilled octopus with white bean hummus.  It was good.  But it was a little more charred than I prefer.  I know people like it and actually try to achieve it but it is not my favorite flavor.  But the thicker end of the tentacle, where there was more meat, was nice and tender.

For the entree I got the flanken short ribs.  I had never heard of that before so I Googled it.  It has to do with the way they are cut.  I think.  Anyway, it turns out they look more like a chop of some kind than a rib of any sort.  Once again there was a little more char than I would have liked but it still tasted great.  And sometimes you would get that perfect bite with the fat that melts in your mouth and makes everything taste wonderful.

Dessert was salted caramel creme brulee.  Which combines two of my favorite things in the world, caramel and creme brulee.  It came with a dark chocolate ganache that was like having a delicious truffle on top of your creme brulee.  It was simply delightful.

My waiter was friendly (and cute, not that that matters of course.) He explained the menu and made suggestions (subtle ones, not pushy ones) all of which I would have found helpful if I hadn't gone in knowing exactly what I wanted already.  He also made me feel like he found it a pleasure to serve me.  I always like when a restaurant makes me feel like they are glad I came by.  And he did.  He even shook my hand on my way out like I had done him a personal favor by eating there.

The regular menu is a la cart so all the sides are ordered separately.  Which I feels lends itself better to being shared.  And I do think it would be a great place for groups.  I just don't think that on a non dine out week time I would go alone.  I'll have to find someone to drag there with me.  Or several someones.  Because going back is not an unpleasant thought.


Weekend Cooking is sponsored by Beth Fish Reads.  Be sure to visit the other posts.  You can find them on the Linky here.

Dine Out Week Boston Visit #2

So, I added another restaurant to my Dine Out Week plans. I was in the mood for Mexican so I picked Sol Azteca as a mid week Dine Out Week treat. Once again I was hooked by the dessert. Flan was on
the menu and I can't pass up flan. But I tried not to get my hopes too high because my first Dine Out Week restaurant changed the menu on me. But I had no need to worry. When I got there the menu was the same one as I had seen on the website. With one delightful change. A beverage was included in the price. And on the list of beverages to choose from was anything on the house margarita list. Score! So I got the Midori Margarita. It was very green and very sweet. I liked it a lot but it is not what I would order if I was in the mood for a margarita. It was much more a Midori cocktail than anything else. And of course you get complimentary chips and salsa. And I tucked into those right away. They are good and you will be tempted to fill up on chips and salsa. But don't. You will be sorry later. Trust me.

The appetizer I got was the quesadillitas. Which I had never heard of before. But they sounded delicious. And they were. They were little deep fried corn pockets filled with goodness. There were three of them, one filled with cheese, one filled with ground beef and one filled with chicken. I think the chicken was my favorite but it is kind of hard to choose. For my entree I got the combo especial. It came with rice, beans, cabbage, a chile relleno stuffed with ground beef and a chicken tortilla casserole with cilantro sauce. The rice, beans and cabbage were all good. The cabbage came in what I think was a vinegar based dressing. Sort of a coleslaw but not creamy, more sharp with a bit of a bite. The chile relleno was ok. It says you get a choice of beef or cheese for the filling. I forgot to mention and he did not ask and I got beef. I would have chosen beef anyway but if you want cheese make sure you mention it. It was in a tomato based sauce and between the tomatoes and pepper and ground beef it tasted Italian to me. Like it was a pasta sauce without the pasta. It was ok but it was not my favorite. I had never seen anything like the casserole. It was chunks of chicken and pieces of tortilla mixed together in a bright green sauce. Then it was covered in melted cheese and sour cream. Now, you won't hear this from me very often because I love cheese, but I don't even think it needed the cheese. That cilantro sauce was awesome. When it became clear that I wasn't going to be able to finish the food on my plate (because it was a lot of food) I stopped eating everything else so I was sure I had room to finish that. I left some of everything else on my plate to save room for the dessert. I got the vanilla flan. (They also have coffee.) It was a really dense custard sitting in a pool of caramel sauce. It was smooth and creamy and sweet. The caramel sauce had a slight bitter taste like it was just short of burnt but it was nice against the sweetness of the flan.

The restaurant has several rooms and outdoor seating as well. It's bright and has lots of colorful decorations on the walls. The staff was polite and helpful. On the way out I needed to stop in the ladies' room. I was going to ask where it was but then saw a door with a sign on it that said restrooms. So I went through the door and walked into another dining room. I don't think it was open yet since there was no one around. I was able to find the restroom with out any problems but I did feel like I was wandering around someplace I wasn't supposed to be. All in all it was a nice night and I left stuffed and happy.



 

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Friday 56 (August 26th)

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.

My book this week is The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin.  I think you can guess what the book is about from the title.  

He took one look at the consomme, then at me, then at the consomme, and his face got redder and redder.  Without a word, he grabbed the nearest weapon to hand, a ladle, and advanced toward me.

Note to self, do not whisk the consomme.  

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Dine Out Week Boston (Summer) Visit #1

I always look forward to Restaurant Week (yes, I know they call it Dine Out Week now but it will always be Restaurant Week to me) and start looking at menus as soon as the list is put online.  I would like to go to 20 restaurants but for both monetary and health (read weight) reasons I try to limit myself to two.  Okay, so maybe I add one and slip in an extra lunch somewhere.  But that's it.  So I read all the menus (if there are no menus posted it is very rare I will go there, I want to know what I'm getting) and start picking favorites.  This time around Ma Maison stuck out for some reason.  Well, let's face it.  It was the creme caramel they had for dessert. The dessert is always very important to my decision.  So I made my reservation and made sure I knew how to get there.  And then I looked forward to it all week.

It was rather unassuming on the outside but I did like the cute little snail logo on the window.  It is warm and inviting inside and I was greeted warmly at the door.  I was seated in the window where I could watch the people walking by in the street.  I was the only one there when I arrived at 6:30 but by seven it started to fill up.  It isn't big, you can see the whole place from the front door, but the seating doesn't feel crowded.

Everything was going great until I was handed the menu.  The Dine Out menu they gave me was not the one that I saw online.  They didn't have the asparagus salad appetizer I had planned on so I got the fried clams.  They did have the entree I planned on so I was able to get the Beef Tenderloin Strogonoff with Beets Pasta.  But the real tragedy was that creme caramel was not on the menu.  The only dessert choice was peach cobbler cake with vanilla ice cream.

I got a cocktail to start.  They have a section on the menu with French
cocktails, all of which have champagne as the first ingredient.  And I figured, when in a French restaurant...  So I got one.  It was delicious.  Then they brought out some bread.  Which was good as well.  But since I really like bread and always enjoy complimentary bread I'm probably not the best judge.

The fried clam appetizer came with a Dijon mustard creme brulee.  Which sounded odd and slightly worrying to me and when it came out it looked like a creme brulee served in a clam shell.  The batter on the clams was nice and light and crisp.  And the Dijon went with them very nicely.  And it was a very big portion for an appetizer.

The strogonoff entree was a beautiful plate of food.  The red beet pasta was very striking.  And it tasted good too.  When it came out the ladies sitting next to me both noticed and asked what I was having.  One of them decided to change her dinner choice after seeing and smelling mine.  I think she made the right choice.

Then it was time for dessert.  It is a very sad thing how disappointed I was not to be eating creme caramel.  But once again the food looked and tasted good but I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more if I was not expecting something else.  Still, half way through the dessert I was wishing I had left a little on my plate the previous two courses because I just couldn't finish the whole thing.

The service was good.  Everyone was friendly and polite.  My water glass was always full.  I didn't feel hushed or forgotten. They made me feel like they were happy I had come in.  It is a place I would go back to.  And maybe someday I'll be brave enough to go there and get the Friday special of frog legs.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Friday 56

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.

The book this week is The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson.  One day a man comes home from his part time job at the video shop to find an invoice for an absurd amount of money.  He calls customer service and finds out that the bill is for everything he has ever experienced in his entire life.  

With some reluctance, I had to admit that I was actually pretty happy with my life.  I didn't really have anything to complain about.

Which makes him a lucky man.  Of course it also makes his bill that much higher.  So it's kind of a bittersweet thing. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Tide Watchers Review

The Tide Watchers by Lisa Chaplin

(from the back of the book)

Though the daughter of an English baronet, Lisbeth has defied convention by eloping to France with her new husband. But when he breaks her heart by abandoning her, she has nowhere to turn and must work in the local tavern. Her only hope for the future is to be reunited with her young son, who is being raised by her mother-in-law.

A seasoned spy known by his operatives as Tidewatcher, Duncan apprenticed under Lisbeth’s father and pledged to watch over his mentor’s only daughter while he searches the Channel region for evidence that Bonaparte has built a fleet to invade Britain. But unpredictable Lisbeth challenges his lifelong habit of distance.

Eccentric, brilliant American inventor Robert Fulton is working on David Bushnell’s “turtle” – the first fully submersible ship – when he creates brand new torpedo technology, which he plans to sell to the French navy. But when his relationship with Bonaparte sours, he accepts Tidewatcher’s help to relocate to the French side of the Channel but refuses to share his invention. With an entire army encamped in the region, blocking off all access, Tidewatcher must get that submersible, along with someone who knows how to use it, to uncover Bonaparte’s great secret.

When Lisbeth is asked to pose as a housekeeper to charm Fulton so she can learn to use the submersible before the invasion fleet sails, she will be forced to sacrifice herself for her country – but is she willing to sacrifice her heart when she’s already lost it to another?




This one is tough to review. The whole premise of the story is very interesting. I usually like historical fiction. The characters were not one dimensional and you actually had to think about whether they were even good people and doing the right things or not. And I like when everything is not black and white. There is a lot of action and suspense. And a story about the first submarine is just cool. But I didn’t really like the book. I didn’t like the main characters as people and found them uninteresting as characters. I didn’t care what happened to them. And the plot, that should have been extremely compelling, was strangely not. Despite all the good components it was never hard to put down and I was never very eager to pick it back up. And the abrupt ending was less of an ending than a ‘tune in next week’ cliffhanger. To write this review I had to skim through the book again because soon after I finished reading it I had forgotten it completely.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Review of a Mini Frozen Key Lime Pie Recipe

Mini Frozen Key Lime Pies

I like lime and lemon desserts and cheesecake and since the weather has been in the 90s I didn’t want to turn on my oven. So this recipe looked perfect. I found it on Epicurious. If you want to try it go here. And you should try it.
I will admit that if there is a lazy way to do something, I will pick the lazy way. And I hate washing my food processor. So to make the crust I bought graham cracker crumbs already in crumb form, melted the butter in the microwave and just mixed it with a fork in a bowl.

For this recipe I used actual key limes. My local grocery store doesn’t often have them so I have never used them before. They are small. Which caused me to over buy key limes. I only used eight and bought about four times that many. I will have to make more lime desserts.

Since they are small I also found that they are a pain to juice and zest. My big clumsy hands had trouble holding on to the slippery little things while trying to zest them with a microplane without zesting my fingers.

The heavy cream gets whipped and some goes into the filling but there is some left over to put on top when the cheesecakes are done. Which is lovely, since there is nothing better than fresh whipped cream.


Once you have the filling all mixed up it says to pipe it into the cupcake liners. But, again, I took the lazy man’s way out and just spooned it in. You can fill them almost all the way to the top and have enough to make 12. After you put the crust on they will come right to the top of the liner. I left them in the freezer overnight and ate them straight from the freezer. I was worried that I would have to let them sit for a bit to soften so I could get a fork through them but they never got that hard. So you can just leave them in the freezer until you are ready to eat them and there is no waiting or timing it out so they are soft but not melted.

They are creamy and tart and have a good strong lime flavor. And they are cute too. And since you can keep them in the freezer they can last probably far longer than anyone can wait to eat them. They got rave reviews and I have to admit that I had trouble stopping after eating just one so they are a little dangerous to have around the house. But I'm sure I'll be making these again.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday 56 (July 29)

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.


My book is I Am No One by Patrick Flanery. Jeremy returns to the US after living for a sdecade in England and he starts to receive mysterious evidence that he is being watched. He has no idea who would be watching him or why since he is 'no one'.

No, I said to myself sitting before Rachel that Monday afternoon, she was well dressed and neatly groomed, but she was not attractive. Genetics had dealt her a rather poor hand.


Poor girl. I got this book from Library Thing. I need to write a review for it. I haven't done it yet because I'm still trying to figure out what I thought of it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tuesday With Morrie Movie vs Book

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Tuesdays with Morrie with Hank Azaria and Jack Lemmon

Both the book and the movie are about a journalist that reconnects with one of his former college professors when he hears that his professor is dying.
Morrie, the professor, shares the insights that he has learned as the disease that will eventually take his life ravishes his body.  And these conversations have a profound impact on his former student, Mitch.


The book and the movie follow very similar lines and there are times when the wording is exactly the same.  But there were differences.  In the book (and I’m assuming, real life) Mitch is married, but for some reason in the movie he isn’t.  In the movie he has a girlfriend and the relationship between them takes up much more of the movie than it does of the book.  In fact there is a lot more in the movie that involves Mitch when he isn’t with Morrie.  Almost the entire book takes place in Morrie’s home, you don’t get to see much of Mitch’s life at all.  I don’t know if they just added things from life to make it more complete or added made up things to make it more dramatic, but you get to see more of his work and home life.

I wasn’t that big of a fan of the book because I thought, despite the very personal nature of the story, that it was reduced to a bunch of pithy sayings.  Which, I admit, mean more coming from someone who has to actually live them, but at times it started to feel like a bunch of clichés strung together and it became trite.  Which is sad because I’m sure Morrie’s life was anything but trite.  And I don’t know how you can tell such a personal, emotional tale and still leave me feeling like I don’t know the people involved.  But that was how the book made me feel.  So it was nice that the movie added more of the people’s lives.  I found it easier to connect to the people because I felt I knew them better.  So I think the movie edges the book out a little for me.  But the movie still has some of the slightly preachy, slightly condescending feel the book had so I wasn’t the biggest fan of the movie either.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Fish and Chips at the Mission Bar and Grille

I was in the area to visit my brand new niece and her mother so I stopped into the Mission Bar and Grille.  First of all, it was dark in there.  I don’t mean warm and cozy or romantically dim.  I mean dark. When I walked in there was no one greeting people at the door, or really any employees in sight.  So I just took a seat at the bar.  It was the Saturday of the 4th of July weekend.  They had a limited menu that day because I think they originally had not planned to be open.  I ended up getting the fish and chips.  They had run out of coleslaw.  I assume it was because it was the holiday weekend and they had not expected to be open.  At least I hope that was why.  I was asked if I would like a side salad instead.  Which was fine.  Coleslaw is not why I get fish and chips.  The batter on the fish was light and nice and crispy.  The fish was nice and flaky and delicious.  The fries were good too, except, as with most fish and chips some were soggy because they had been sitting under the fish.  They have a good selection of beers.  I didn’t try the cocktails but some of the ones on the menu looked good.  I wouldn’t say the service was bad.  I would say it was relaxed.  The bartender was polite enough, but I waited a while for my food, and all of the staff seemed a bit distracted by the soccer game.  They all must be big fans so you might want to go when there are no games on.  The food was good and there was nothing that went so wrong that I would write off the place completely.  I think I might have picked the wrong day to see the place at its best.  I’m not sure I would ever make the trip just to go to the Mission but if I’m in the area I would give it another try.