Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Grillfish Review

When I told my friends I was going to Washington D.C. one of them suggested GrillFish.  And it turned out not to be far from my hotel so it worked out really well.  It was a cute place but I don’t know that I would have noticed it if I hadn’t been looking for it.  Inside is open and bright.  I was glad to see it was well lit after all the dim and dark restaurants I’ve been in.  It was warm and inviting.

With the complimentary bread you get a thyme, rosemary and sage butter.  I usually want my butter to be just butter but I found I liked the fresh herb flavor here.  And there wasn’t so much rosemary that it overcame everything else.  I got a nice cocktail that was just sweet enough.  I can’t remember the name but I liked it enough to get another one later.  And it came with an ice cube with a cherry frozen inside.  

 Bubba, my waiter, suggested I get the fish chowder to start.  So I gave it a shot and I’m glad I did.  It was nice and creamy and had large chunks of fish and lots of them.  It was delicious and not too heavy so it was just enough to start off the meal and still have room to finish it.  For my entrée I got the arctic char which came with rice and I chose the coconut red curry sauce (which was another Bubba suggestion that I’m glad I took because that sauce was great.)  The fish was moist and flaky and the delicious curry sauce was a wonderful compliment to it.

For dessert I got the mango key lime pie.  I like both of those flavors but had never had them together before but would love to try them again.  It was tart and creamy and I just wanted to keep eating it even though I was full.

The service was good as well.  Bubba was friendly and gave me some very good suggestions without being pushy about anything.  He was there when I needed him but he did not hang around when I didn’t.  So my water glass was always full and I was never sitting too long with an empty plate but I didn’t feel like he was hovering.  Which I hate.

I was pleased with the whole experience.  I would go back if I am ever in D.C. again and suggest you go if you are in the area and in the mood for fish.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Road of the Dead Review

The Road of the Dead by Kevin Brooks

(from the back of the book)
When Ruben’s sister Rachel is murdered, he can sense it.  Even though he’s miles away.  Even though he can’t explain it.  He feels her fear.  He feels pain.  And then – her death.

Ruben’s older brother Cole is different from him: darker, harsher, more direct.  As soon as he finds out about Rachel’s death, he has a plan.  Three days later, the two brothers set out to reclaim their sister’s body and uncover the cold truth behind her killing.  It’s a long road that requires a hard and violent journey…with a brutal mystery at its end.

Ruben and Cole go on a quest to find out what happened to their sister.  And it turns into a dark and violent journey.  The brothers set out to bring peace to the family by putting their sister to rest but the story is about much more than that.  There is an interesting relationship between the brothers that is intensified by the tension they are under and I like the way Ruben reacts to his brother, always backing him up even when he’s not sure he likes what he is doing.  There is love between them that has to remain unsaid but is evident in the way they are together.  The family’s whole past gets mixed into the events as they begin to unfold and Ruben has to face some unpleasant truths and figure out what to do about them.  There are parts of the mystery of the murder of their sister that become evident early on but the details and how everything will turn out remain unknown until the end.  There is a lot of violence that is graphic at times and is intense enough that it almost makes you uneasy reading it. Cole is written well so that you want to be on his side but at the same time you are scared of him and what he might do.   There is a tension and suspense to a lot of the story that keeps the reader engaged and eager to keep reading.  And I like that the subjects of justice, motives, revenge and closure are presented as muddled and confusing instead of black and white.  But Ruben’s ability to feel what other people are feeling, interesting at first, starts to go a little too far.  It ends up being a way that Ruben can keep the first person narrative going even when he isn’t where the action is.  And it changes the nature of the nature of his ability at random depending on what the author needs it to do at the moment.  And that makes everything harder to believe.  And maybe after everything it wraps up a little suddenly with a few little holes about what will happen next but the story is strong enough that it doesn’t really matter.  And I like the way the book handles the fields of justice, revenge, motives and closure.  

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Friday 56 and Book Beginnings (Jan. 13)

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

*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 QB VII by Leon Uris.  Abraham Cady finds himself on trial for libel when his book about the Holocaust accuses Dr. Kelno for horrible acts during the war.

Book Beginnings:

The corporal cadet stepped out of the guard hut and squinted out over the field.  A shadowy figure ran through the knee-high grass toward him.

The Friday 56:

The little olive-skinned man looked up to the doctor with begging eyes.  How to explain that the chief's son would be a hopeless idiot?

I was uncertain if a 426 page book about a trial could hold my attention.  But this one did.  It starts off giving a glimpse into the life of first the plaintiff and then the defendant.  So the whole book does not take place in the courtroom.  But even after we get there it is a tense suspenseful story.  I'm almost done with it now but I'm still not sure how everything will work out.  But I am really interested to find out.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wild Goose Chase Reading Challenge

I'm joining the Wild Goose Chase reading challenge.  It's hosted by The Bookshelf Gargoyle.  The goal is to read one book from each of seven catagories.  To find out all the rules and to sign up yourself go to the Wild Goose Chase post.

The catagories are:

1. A book with a word of phrase relating to wildness in the title

2. A book with a species of bird (or the word “bird”) in the title

3. A book with an exotic or far-flung location in the title

4. A book with an object you might hunt for in the title

5. A book with a synonym for chase in the title

6. A book with a means of transport in the title

7. A book with an object you might take on a search or hunt in the title

Birth Year Reading Challenge

I'm joining the Birth Year Reading Challenge.  It is hosted by Hotchpot Cafe.  The point is to find books published in the year you were born and read them.  Well, probably not all of them.  But there are prizes.  And the one who reads the most books will win the grand prize.  So you should get reading right away.  To find out the particulars and to sign up yourself visit the Birth Year Reading Challenge.  You can change your list at any time.  Which is good.  Since I already know that I'm not going to stick to this list.  And maybe even manage to read a few more than this. 

As of right now this is my list:

Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut
The Deep by Peter Benchley
Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater
Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart
Promised Land by Robert Parker
Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton
They Came Before Columbus by Ivan Van Sertima
The Boys From Brazil by Ira Levin
The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank by Emma Bombeck
Raise the Titanic by Clive Cussler
Roots by Alex Haley
Deus Irae by Philip Dick

Monday, January 9, 2017

Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge

I'm joining the 2017 Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge.  It is hosted by Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book.  If you would like to join too you can check out the post here.  The challenge is to read a book that has a title that starts with each letter of the alphabet.  (Excluding a, an, and the.)  No reviews needed.  No blog needed.  You can either make a list in advance or just add them as you go along.  For more info or to join up yourself check out the 2017 Alphabet Reading Challenge!  

A. The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen
E. Etta by Gerald Kolpan
Q. QB VII by Leon Uris
S. Straight Man by Richard Russo

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Books Read in 2017

1. The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen - 406
2. Straight Man by Richard Russo - 391
3. QB VII by Leon Uris - 426
4. Etta by Gerald Kolpan - 316

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Island Creek Oyster Bar Review

I spend a lot of time browsing menus online.  And it is often the dessert menu that interests me the most.  As was the case when I was looking at the menu for Island Creek Oyster Bar.  An oyster bar is not something that I would normally be interested but I saw something called banoffee pie on the menu and was instantly interested.  It is a pie that is mostly dulce de leche and whipped cream with a few bananas thrown in.  I needed to try it.  And since they had a good looking selection of seafood that I was also interested in I decided to actually go this time instead of saying I was going to remember the restaurant for later and then not doing any thing of the sort.  Which is what I usually do when I browse menus.  And since I have a friend that loves seafood of all sorts I decided to invite him along.

It is an average size space but it is open and bright and that gives it a feeling of having lots of room.  We were seated in a booth right in the front window that was meant to seat three people so we had plenty of room and were very comfortable.  We decided to get a bottle of wine.  I can't really tell you if it was a good wine list but it was rather extensive and since my wine knowledge is minimal at best I let my friend and the waiter work out the selection between them.  The waiter was very patient and helpful as they found something that we would enjoy and could also afford.  We ended up with a half bottle of something, I never knew what, but it was white and I enjoyed it.  And when we had finished that our waiter brought us each a glass of another white wine on the house that I also enjoyed.  And not just because it was free.  I remembered this fondly when it came time to figure out the tip.

For appetizers we got the tuna tartare and some crispy oyster sliders.  The tuna was served with house made potato chips and the fish was fresh and tasted delightfully of sesame.  The oyster sliders were good as well.  I think this had a lot to do with the very buttery toasted bun that they came on.  We only got one each but I would have gladly eaten several more.

For our entrees he got the lobster roll which came with cole slaw and French fries (he had the choice between them and chips) and the roll was packed full.  I didn't taste anything on his plate but he seemed to enjoy it.  I got the skate wing with lentils.  I had never had skate before and really had no idea what to expect.  When the waiter told me it was really good I was glad to hear it but was only slightly relieved.  Because what else is he going to say?  But I was pleased when it arrived.  It is not flaky like a white fish but it has a similar taste.  It was moist and delicious.  And the portion was generous without being stupid big.  

And then of course it was time for dessert.  He got the chocolate tart.  Again he seemed pleased but I didn't try it.  (I should probably let you know that I have no faith in his opinion of food so I rarely ask him what he thought of anything.  I have found it to be a pointless exercise.)  And of course I got the banoffee pie.  I like whipped cream and dulce de leche so I found it delicious.  The bruled bananas on top were a nice touch too.  It was a nice big piece as well.  Probably bigger than I should have eaten since I'm trying to watch my calorie intake but I couldn't stop eating it.

It was a nice dinner all around and I would definitely suggest it to anyone who likes seafood.  After eating here I find myself in the same dilemma that I find myself in after eating in any restaurant I enjoy.  I want to go back.  But I also like to try new places.  And for budget reasons, both monetary and calorie, I can't go out to eat nearly as often as I would like.  So how do I decide?  Oddly this time I don't think my decision will have anything to do with dessert.  Because as I sit here writing this I find myself thinking about that buttery oyster slider.  And I can see myself going back to sit at the bar with a cocktail and about eight of them.  

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

Friday, December 30, 2016

Five Horses Tavern Review

Five Horses Tavern

I was there on a Thursday at 5:30 with a group of nine. The place isn't very big, and it was kind of busy so I think that if we didn't have a reservation it would have been hard to get all of us seated. It is a cozy place but I did not feel crowded or cramped even with the large party. The service was great. Everyone was friendly and attentive. The food got mixed reviews. A few people ordered the ribs and shared some around, I didn't try them myself but, all six people who did said that they were too salty. No one was able to finish the whole plate of them. Most of the food was fine but nothing special. But there were a few exceptions. Everyone liked the haus pretzel. And the corn bread was a big hit. We were all talking about how good it was the next day. The phrase 'best corn bread I've ever had' was used more than once. I think the secret is butter. If you go, definitely get some. I don't think I would go back here for dinner but it would be a good place to go for drinks and appetizers with friends.

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

*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

*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

*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

*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

*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.


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

*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.