on being

Nov. 22nd, 2012 12:11 pm
clevermynnie: (smile)
At work, it still surprises me to find that I am gaining responsibility, that I can give grad students physics advice or that I have enough expertise to get a bunch of expensive equipment up and running. Or to be greeted as 'Dr. J.' And Ben has actually been asked to be the external examiner on a thesis defense. I guess it still feels a bit weird not to be in school, especially for me since I am still surrounded by students. But even grad students are starting to look surprisingly young to me!

And of course, I don't have today off, but we are having some people over later for a Thanksgiving-y dinner! I already made cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and sourdough rolls, and Ben will go home a bit early to cook more. We actually got more chairs and a table extension for this, and are planning to deep-fry a turkey outside (which I won't eat but am interested to see). Last year the fall holidays were a little depressing because we were so recently arrived and didn't know much of anyone, plus I was unemployed, but it's really nice to feel so much more settled now. And to have so many things (travel, seeing friends, work fun, writing, gaming, running, music) to look forward to in the coming months!

For gratitude, I recommend reading this piece on enjoying everyday moments; I hope everyone is having a good Thanksgiving, or alternately a good Thursday.

stuff

Sep. 19th, 2012 05:26 pm
clevermynnie: (and then?)
I finally got over the terrible cold I had, and was able to come back to work this week. I'm still coughing, but that's dropping off exponentially, which is good because I had to go to a lot of talks earlier this week and coughing fits are not great in a talk.

Ben is out of town at the moment, at an AI conference, but before he left he did something really cool. His anniversary present for me back in July was a cookbook and the promise to make three full meals from it for me, and we had the first one this weekend (our August was very hectic so there was not time then!). He made corn pancakes of roasted pepper, red onion, and goats' cheese; aubergine gamelastra; and berry-almond tartlets. It was such a nice dinner! And he actually expended effort on plating things nicely, and bought special drinks, extra efforts I thought were really sweet. Plus he left some very delicious leftovers for me to eat while he's been gone.

Now Winnie and Jim, some of my parents-in-law, are here to visit. We sent them down to chill out in Bray for their first couple of days here, and it should be really fun to go around with them this weekend. They are such sweet people and I get on with them very well. I love when people visit us here!

stuff

Sep. 19th, 2012 05:26 pm
clevermynnie: (and then?)
I finally got over the terrible cold I had, and was able to come back to work this week. I'm still coughing, but that's dropping off exponentially, which is good because I had to go to a lot of talks earlier this week and coughing fits are not great in a talk.

Ben is out of town at the moment, at an AI conference, but before he left he did something really cool. His anniversary present for me back in July was a cookbook and the promise to make three full meals from it for me, and we had the first one this weekend (our August was very hectic so there was not time then!). He made corn pancakes of roasted pepper, red onion, and goats' cheese; aubergine gamelastra; and berry-almond tartlets. It was such a nice dinner! And he actually expended effort on plating things nicely, and bought special drinks, extra efforts I thought were really sweet. Plus he left some very delicious leftovers for me to eat while he's been gone.

Now Winnie and Jim, some of my parents-in-law, are here to visit. We sent them down to chill out in Bray for their first couple of days here, and it should be really fun to go around with them this weekend. They are such sweet people and I get on with them very well. I love when people visit us here!
clevermynnie: (smile)
Until just now, we hadn't been anywhere much west of here in Ireland, so on Friday we took the train down to Cork for the weekend. It was very fun, great food and a lot of beautiful areas.

After getting in on Friday we headed to the Franciscan Well brewpub; we can get their Friar Weisse beer here in Dublin, but they had all their beers on tap there and we really enjoyed them (a blonde, a great lager, a nice casked red and a stout). We also lucked out there with Ben snagging the last chorizo wood-fired pizza just as they were stopping production for the night. But come morning, from the beer and changing our sleep schedule around, we were both feeling a little out of it. The breakfast at the B&B we stayed at was pretty amazing, and picked up my spirits significantly. Then we met up with someone I used to work with in Philadelphia, a native Corkonian (that's really what they say) who was back in Cork for a bit before permanently emigrating to the US later this year. He drove us to Kinsale, where we walked around a beautiful old star-shaped fort, along a grey beach, and then had lunch at a pretty amazing fish place where I had a salad with salmon and some other fish in chili sauce. Unfortunately, during this time Ben was feeling worse and worse, and ended up getting a migraine and sleeping in the car for a bit. We headed back to Cork, poked around some sights and the university, and then retired to the room for a bit so that Ben could nap and hopefully recover. He ended up feeling well enough that we went to this vegetarian restaurant for dinner, which he'd heard about from a coworker, and had another amazing meal there. I had a carrot and almond terrine, these amazing artichokes with citrus cream sauce, white beans, and saffron gnocchi, and then a really lovely berry pudding for dessert. It was actually really hard to choose because everything looked so good... I am considering buying one of their cookbooks but I need to do some research on which one would be best.

Fortunately, after a full night's sleep Ben was feeling a lot better, so on Sunday we headed off on a bus tour of the Dingle peninsula. I kept hearing over and over again how Dingle was one of the most beautiful places in Ireland, so even though it's again a couple of hours from Cork, it was completely worth going there. The bus driver gave a lot of history and current events in places we drove through, pointed out nice spots, talked about counties Cork and Kerry through the years, and of course also had some pauses to just play music as we drove. We stopped at the Inch Beach where it was raining, and worried that we were driving pretty far to see rain, but we really lucked out and after that it cleared up. We drove out to Slea Head, which is the westernmost point in Ireland and has an amazing rugged coastline plus views out to the Blasket Islands in the Atlantic. There was an interesting museum about Blasket Islanders (who left the island in 1953) and a lot of nice views, and then we headed to Dingle town and had a late lunch. I had nice fish and chips plus a Crean's lager, but Ben had what was apparently a transcendent fish pie, and told me that the fish pie had pushed the weekend into being a net positive experience despite feeling miserable for most of a day. Phew.

We spent the rest of the day getting back to Cork and then back to Dublin, to our cats and own bed. I have a list of a bunch of places I'd like to go in Ireland, and this trip hit some of them, but it also just gave me more ideas about places to go! Like Killarney, which I'd heard of but didn't realize how nice and outdoorsy it was until our bus driver told us about it and drove us by a nice view of Lough Leane. Next time!

photos, of course! )

slea head and cow
clevermynnie: (and then?)
In between eating all the good food in Hungary and reading Julia Child anecdotes in My Life in France, I was struck with new enthusiasm for cooking. Cooking is fun! And my cooking frequency has dropped precipitously since I started working again. My first thought was, oh, I should get a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and make a million dinners from it. Which I still want to do. But actually, I have a more pressing cooking need that I should address, which is lunches.

I want to eat tasty and awesome lunches, and I would prefer to be mostly bringing them from home. I want them to have colorful vegetables and at least some kind of protein. And since it's summer I prefer non-hot food, because then I can easily eat outside and look at trees and such. But I really only have one recipe like that, the tuna and garbanzo salad, which I love but I don't want to eat it every day. This week I came up with another fish salad which I think is pretty good, a mixture of the following:

salmon steak, marinated in olive oil and soy sauce and honey and ginger, pan-cooked
cherry tomatoes, halved
yellow bell pepper, chopped
some kind of spicy green pepper, chopped
green onions, sliced
the marinade, cooked down a bit and used as a sauce

It came out really well, though I wish I could use some serrano chiles instead of whatever the small green pepper I got at the store was. It had no bite at all. Chopping the vegetables is a bit tedious but I can do it while cooking the salmon so the total prep time is pretty low.

I would love to have more lunch repertoire, though. Does anyone have suggestions? Bonus points if you can come up with a cold presentation of tofu or cooked egg that is appetizing in lunches. Double bonus points if it's spicy. Points deducted for the inclusion of olives.

budapest

Jun. 18th, 2012 10:14 pm
clevermynnie: (smile)
We had so much fun in Budapest!

The food was really amazing. I had paprikash and dumplings, Hortobágy pancakes, steak tartare, and sour cherry soup (there is a picture below of me with the soup!). We also had some pretty good Hungarian beer, and some pretty amazing wines from the Tokaji region. We came back with a lot of paprika and the desire to own a Hungarian cookbook. Well, and the desire to maybe lay off the sour cream for a few days.

And we had a fun time walking around, looking at Fin de Siecle architecture, hiking on the steep hills and the big island park. We went to a Telephony Museum where they had the first telephone switchboard on display, still operational, and you could play around with it and see how it worked which was very cool. We also saw the last apartment that Franz Liszt lived in, and several pianos he owned, and I loved that. And we went to an applied arts museum which was nice, but they had a traveling exhibit from the Victoria and Albert museum rather than their own collection out, which was a pity. (Not that the stuff from the V&A wasn't nice!)

Plus of course we stumbled across concerts and festivals and ate ice cream and cold drinks and all those things you do in summer. The weather was pretty warm but not terrible, and it made me realize that I like being able to visit warm summers but not having to live in them. It's nice to be relaxing in the shade with a beer in hot weather, but if you walk around a lot it's nice not to have to take a million showers, and it's nice to be able to sleep at night.

So! Pictures!

danube and parliament


Read more... )

vienna

Mar. 12th, 2012 10:31 am
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
I went to Vienna for the weekend to visit my old friend Daria, who is temporarily living there. What a great city! I flew in Friday night and we caught up over dinner, and then over the weekend we did quite a lot. We went to a Viennese kaffeehaus, saw the amazing art collections at the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Belvedere, and went on a walking tour around the core of the city which has a beautiful cathedral and a huge sprawling palace. We also got very cheap tickets to see a ballet in the Vienna State Opera House, which is one of these towering small performance spaces with balcony after balcony: very beautiful. And the ballet itself was interesting, with two Jerome Robbins pieces to Glass and Chopin that I really enjoyed (and two Balanchine pieces to Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky that I didn't like as much). We also talked a lot and had time to relax and have cakes and such, so it was a very nice weekend.

There is one cake that I had which I should make at home. It was in the Belvedere cafe and it was two layers of very dense, almondy cake, a layer of orange buttercream between them, and a very pretty fondant layer on the outside. I probably could skip the fondant but the cake was delicious.

And I feel like I only scratched the surface in terms of all the museums and sights in and around Vienna... which is good because Ben was away and so didn't accompany me, to his regret. So I'm sure we'll go there together at some point and see some of the many things I did not have time for on this trip.

around

Mar. 5th, 2012 12:20 pm
clevermynnie: (Default)
This weekend was pretty great. The weather was gorgeous, very clear, so on Saturday Ben and I headed down to see Christchurch Cathedral, which is a very old church that has been restored and thus has an interesting mish-mash of styles and themes. It was lovely, though I forgot my camera so I have no pictures. Next time! What's shocking is that apparently just before our visit, someone stole a relic, the heart of an Irish saint who was one of the founders of this cathedral. It's now all over the news and people are quite upset, but nothing seemed amiss when we were there so perhaps the news hadn't broken yet.

Afterward we went to this food market in Temple Bar, where I had samosas and a smoothie for lunch and Ben had roast pork, and we picked up a very inexpensive selection of raw cheeses, plus a baguette and some salad. That was our dinner later on, along with this delicious Belgian beer we have, and in the afternoon we just relaxed together which was great. Sunday morning, Ben left for San Francisco to give a talk at GDC, so I spent the day running up in Howth (beautiful!) and calling friends and family.

And, we now have our tickets for our US trip at the end of April. I'm pretty excited about the whole thing: we are going to a wedding in Escondido, visiting friends in Pasadena, going on a cruise to Ensenada with Ben's family, and then I'm going to New Mexico to see my parents and run the Greenland 50k in Colorado. Then I can bring back so much green chile!

barcelona

Jan. 30th, 2012 09:23 pm
clevermynnie: (smile)
We had a really fun time in Barcelona! I had high expectations for what the city would be like, because many people have told me how much they enjoyed it, and those expectations were certainly met.

Having recently read a lot about Gaudí and modernist (art nouveau) art and architecture, I had a list of buildings and parks that I wanted to visit in Barcelona. Which meant that we spent a lot of time walking around looking at buildings; fortunately this is something Ben enjoys too. We went to the huge Gothic cathedral and walked around the Gothic quarter a lot, and that served as a really nice anchor to all the modernist buildings we saw: houses, pavilions, apartment buildings, a theater, and of course the Sagrada Familia which is an enormous cathedral that's still being completed. I took tons of photos of all these buildings, and since we had somewhat poor weather I think the conditions for photos weren't great, but I could not help myself. I really love the expressive shapes and colors, inspired by nature, in so many of the buildings we saw.

There are also a lot of excellent museums in Barcelona, so many that we had to be a bit choosy with our limited time there. Ben had grown up enjoying Miró so we went to the Miró museum, which was very thoroughly representative of every period in the artist's life; it was moving to see how his art evolved in parallel with the political environment of Spain and I was relieved to learn that he saw Spain finally shake off dictatorship before he died. We also went to the Picasso museum, which had some interesting early Picasso and then this great series that Picasso did where he reinterpreted the Velasquez painting Las Meninas. They had all the paintings there, fifty-some, but you can see a few online here. We also went to a house museum about Gaudí, and a cool archaeological museum where you went down under this castle in the Gothic quarter to see Roman ruins of the original settlement of Barcino, as well as an outdoor museum where many different styles of Spanish building were collected in one small village. It was also especially cool to see the park where the 1992 Olympics were held; I was 8 at the time and they were the first Olympics that I remember being aware of.

In between all the wandering around to look at everything, we ate a lot of amazing food. We had tapas, Ben had paella for the first time (a dish I had tried before he had! will wonders never cease?), and we had a lot of good cheap wine and good cheap coffee. We even had caipirinhas, which I had not had in years! And a crazy amount of seafood. It was a lot of fun.
clevermynnie: (Default)
It took us awhile to assemble all of the pieces that we needed to start homebrewing here, but we finally got everything together and started an oatmeal stout this weekend. We boiled the beer in the parking lot behind our apartment building, and I have to say I never realized before how not-windy our backyard in Philly was. The burner kept going out so we had to keep a very close eye on things so that we could relight it when necessary! But now it is happily bubbling away and should be ready to transfer to a keg in a few weeks.

Yes! A keg! In Philly we bottled our beers, which is not very interesting and kind of a chore, so we decided to set up a kegerator here. We have some 5-gallon soda kegs which we got used, a chest freezer, a carbon dioxide cylinder, and soon we'll have a temperature controller, which means we can have stuff on tap instead of having to clean, store, and fill a hundred bottles. I'm really looking forward to that.

I've also been doing a lot of bread baking, while I still have the time. I mostly do sourdough, and while I've gotten pretty good at the basic loaf, I have been trying to expand my repertoire because there are so many kinds of breads I like. I've done some cooking with buckwheat flour, which has no gluten so it's the sort of thing you add a little of to a bread, but it's got a great nutty taste which I love. And they sell a wholemeal flour here which is sort of like whole wheat flour from the US plus wheat germ, which can go with honey and olive oil into really delicious whole wheat buns. I even made baguettes, which have a ridiculously wet dough and were very different to process than the breads I was used to, but they came out delicious. Overall, I have really benefited from the book Local Breads, which has a lot of great description and recipes for various kinds of interesting sourdough breads. I've made breads before now, but it's fun to have some time to try out some different things and see what the results are like.

yum

Oct. 29th, 2011 05:00 pm
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
It's been really nice having more time to cook. I haven't been following specific recipes, but I've been looking through some of our cookbooks for ideas, and here are some of the recent things I've made, with rough ingredients:

*Sweet potato soup: sweet potatoes, shallots, balsamic vinegar, chili powder, cumin
*Vegetable gratin: grilled eggplants, jam from shallots, red bell pepper, tomatoes, oregano, topped with Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses
*Pasta: with goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil
*Tuna melts: tuna, homemade mayonnaise, celery, shallot, on crusty wheat bread topped with cheddar cheese and broiled
*Citrus meringues: using the egg whites I had leftover after making mayonnaise
*Easy tuna salad: tuna, arugula, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, balsamic vinegar and olive oil
*Gnocchi: served with a shallot, mushroom, and balsamic vinegar reduction, with Gruyere on top, broiled briefly
*Crepes with three fillings: chevre/harissa/apricot filling, mushroom/shallot/Comte filling, and apple/cinnamon/nutmeg/Muscovado filling

We are clearly re-establishing our kitchen, since I often want to make something and realize that an ingredient we had in Philadelphia, we don't have here (yet). But today we went to a pretty nice Asian grocery store, downtown, and started to build back up our store of ingredients for Chinese and Thai food. There are a lot of nice small groceries around, they just take some finding. But finally I can make my tofu stir fry with kecap manis again, and I think tomorrow night Ben is going to make some dan dan noodles.

Oh, and I spent a lot of time feeding and refeeding our sourdough starter, to get it to come back to life after the hibernation of our move. I finally made some wheat rolls with it this week, and they came out great! The next thing I'm going to try making is baguettes, but I also want to do more breads with this awesome wholemeal flour (which means, the wheat germ isn't removed) that we have here.

salad

Jul. 10th, 2011 11:41 am
clevermynnie: (smile)
My friend Joao made a salad for me when I was visiting him in Geneva, and I liked it so much that I asked him to give me a recipe, which I often have for lunches. It keeps for a couple of days and is very quick to make. His original recipe, with the necessary ingredients followed by the optional additions:

Black-eyed peas or chickpeas
red beets (boiled) cut in small chunks
sprouts (alfafa is good)
Tuna (Portuguese tuna in extra virgin olive oil, never the crap in water)
mozzarela di bufala (not the crappy fake mozzarela you find often) or feta cheese
Half of the times, smoked salmon instead of tuna

Raw mushrooms in slices
roasted sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and sometimes flax seeds
A little bit of roast sesame oil (if you want to enhance the sesame
part of the "extra")
white truffle oil (if you want to enhance the mushrooms instead)
a lot of balsamic vinegar
some good olive oil
a hint of apple cider vinegar
Herbes-de-Provence
some powder garlic
a bit of powder ginger
pepper
a bit of cayenne
some croutons or (more often) "biscotte"

The way I usually do it is with tuna, garbanzo beans, pea shoots, mushrooms, beets, and then a lot of herbs and balsamic vinegar. I love it with the mozzarella but that part doesn't keep as well, so for lunches I'd probably have to package the cheese separately and add it at the end. It's delicious though.
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
One of the cooler things about the conference that I went to in Dallas was going to two talks about food and science.

The first talk was about the science of barbecue, given by a professor from Texas A&M. He talked about how they have a freshman seminar there about barbecue, which is immensely popular, and he shared some of the cooler tidbits from that class. There are a lot of ways to improve the texture, the perception of tenderness, of meat. You can chemically tenderize it, using a vinegar marinade or salt brine to break up the long muscle fibers. There are also some plant enzymes, like papain, that supposedly do this. You can cook the meat at a low temperature for a long time, to dissolve out the collagen and tough connective tissue, which is essentially what barbecuing in a smoker does. And you can also mechanically tenderize it; I have seen those meat tenderizing mallets before, but he showed a video of a steak on a conveyor belt going through this set of sharp, thin mechanical teeth that chop the muscle fibers into smaller pieces (he claimed that most restaurant steaks have gone through this process). He also talked about meat color and how it mainly comes from what chemical species are bound to the iron in myoglobin (a protein that binds to iron and oxygen in muscle tissue). Meat that's purply, like vacuum-sealed meat, has water bound to the iron. Red meat has oxygen bound to the myoglobin, and the pink color of cured meats like ham comes from nitrites in wood smoke that bind to the myoglobin. Carbon monoxide can bind to myoglobin as well, and this is what causes smoke rings in very slow-cooked barbecue. He also talked some about caramelization in meats and the Maillard reaction, things I had heard of before but understood poorly enough that I still have plenty to learn.

The second talk was about a non-science major course at Harvard, which was created largely as a pretext to invite Ferran Adria, the Catalan chef of El Bulli, to give a talk. The structure of the course was pretty cool: each week they invited a guest chef to give a public talk, and do a course lecture and demonstration, then they had a lecture from the course organizers to go into a specific scientific concept in the guest chef's demo, and also lab time to recreate the dish shown or something similar. The course was immensely popular, as were the public lectures, and they had a cool tradition of applauding at equations and desserts that started when they were discussing phase changes, and a guest chef showed them a dessert made by pouring supercooled infused water onto a plate where it immediately solidifies. They tried to solidly introduce scientific concepts using a framework that most people are interested in: food. And, all the lectures appear to be on youtube here, covering things like sous-vide cooking, browning, emulsions, viscosity, and heat. I haven't watched them all yet but I plan to!

If you are interested in knowing more about this sort of thing, the textbook they used for the course was On Food And Cooking, by Harold McGee, who came to the first lecture and talked about how he never thought they would teach a course on this at Harvard. I had heard of this book before and know a few people who have read it, and I think maybe it should move up my list of books to read. I wish I could get a copy of the new, enormous, and expensive book Modernist Cuisine (New Yorker review which is itself informative) with its tantalizing photos.

pie!

Feb. 13th, 2011 05:16 pm
clevermynnie: (smile)
I had been meaning to make this recipe for Apple Pie with Green Chile that I came across a couple months back, and this weekend finally got around to it. The pie is SO GOOD; it has cheddar cheese in the crust, and the filling is still sweet but the green chile goes really well in it. I would even reduce the sugar, next time. YUM.

recipe )
clevermynnie: (smile)
Since coming back to Philadelphia, I have been seeing a lot of people that I don't often see, and eating a lot of amazing food.

First, I have to record my ongoing obsession with a new food truck that has been near my lab on weekdays, called Tyson Bees. They do Korean-Mexican fusion, and their banh mi, pork buns, and taco special (Vietnamese short rib, Thai basil chicken, and edamame) are all amazing. Plus they are pretty cheap. Hands down the best food truck I have ever eaten at, and very reminiscent of Berkeley in terms of the food quality, price, and creativity. I keep telling people about this cart because I want it to always be there for me... ideally it would follow me around.

I spent a day in NYC recently, walking around the lower East side with [livejournal.com profile] vivnsect and eating green tea ice cream, pizza, and almond rice pudding (from a store that sells only rice pudding, in a gelato-type atmosphere). It was a lot of fun, lots of cool stores and places, and someday I have to actually go into the tenement museum and do the tour and such. In the evening Ben came up and we went with some friends to do the fried chicken dinner at Momofuku, which is an entire southern-style fried chicken and an entire Korean-style fried chicken, plus vegetables, sauces, pork buns, and an amazing drink which consisted of yuzu juice, black tea, and shoju.

[livejournal.com profile] hans_meinigel, who I see all too seldom, came to Philadelphia for a bit and stayed with us, which was also great. We made him some fondue and Indian food, and at some point I went for a walk with him which culminated in gelato (dark chocolate, rosemary honey with goat milk, lemon ginger and rum, and orange cardamom).

This weekend we took the train up to Lancaster to stay with my in-laws there, which was so relaxing... we spent a lot of the weekend reading, playing ping pong, watching movies, playing guitar, that sort of thing. I went on a couple of great runs in my fivefingers in the snow, and went to spin class with my stepmother-in-law. And there was cake. :D

on beer

Sep. 4th, 2010 04:05 pm
clevermynnie: (Default)
We have not been brewing this summer because our house is too hot to ferment almost anything. The only strain of yeast we have been able to use is for a saison, so in June we made one, but the fermentation was incredibly slow so we only recently were able to bottle and now drink it. It's delicious, though, so today is the first brew in awhile and we are just making another saison! It's still hot, and we'll be more patient with this one since we'll be able to brew other stuff soon as well. We are making a ginger saison so I'm very excited, although Ben has taken pains to assure me that it will not be like ginger beer, just beer lightly flavored with ginger. We'll see.

My mom has gotten into brewing as well, which is awesome, and she recently sent me an impressive list of what she has brewed so far. She's only been brewing since June and she has already made 13 batches of beer! Some of them need to age, and so are just sitting around, but still! Let's see if I can list what Ben and I have made... we started with an American amber ale, cider, then a witbeer, an IPA, a pilsner, an oatmeal stout, a Munich lager, an Amarillo IPA, a altbier, a cherry wheat, a barleywine, and the saison which is now ready to drink. The best of those were probably the Munich lager, the oatmeal stout, and the cherry wheat... every batch was pretty good and very drinkable, although with some we got something very different from what we intended (notably the Amarillo IPA, which threw off a huge banana smell during fermentation and then was sort of fixed by dry hopping, and came out fruity but decent). So that's 12 batches in about a year of homebrewing, which is like one a month except that we didn't really brew this summer.

We did recently go to a cool beer event, though. For our anniversary, my gift to Ben was to go to a brewer's night at the Philly Beer School; they had the head brewer from Flying Fish, which is a brewery in New Jersey that we like (and actually visited, a couple years back). I wasn't really sure what it would be like, but basically we had two small glasses and did five rounds of having two beers together, and while we tried the beers the brewer talked about what went into making them, beer generally, and random stories. It was really fun! The beers we got to have were their Farmhouse Summer Ale, Extra Pale Ale, ESB, Abbey Dubbel, Hopfish IPA, Double IPA, American Trippel, Wallonian Rye, and Octoberfish. I had only had a third of the beers before, and it was fun to taste things and get to ask questions. I also appreciated the breadth of styles they brought out, which gave us a lot of ideas about what to try... and the stories that the brewer told about making the double IPA, and the issues he had brewing it, were really funny.

One of the best parts was that we had both eaten a small dinner before the tasting, to avoid feeling woozy but also to leave room for beer, and then as we walked out we realized that the place next door sold funnel cakes. We looked at each other, and I guess one of the ways you can tell if you know someone well is whether you can correctly interpret their "WE MUST HAVE FUNNEL CAKE" look. The funnel cake was perfect after all that beer. :)

yum

Aug. 18th, 2010 04:34 pm
clevermynnie: (wealthy young woman-about-town)
Steph and Scott, my friends from New Mexico who now live in Providence, have been in town and it has been pretty awesome. Especially because I have been using the excuse to take them to a few of my favorite places to eat, and it makes me realize that although Philadelphia is not as much of a mecca of inexpensive deliciousness as Berkeley was, I have found a fair number of great food places here. The ones I've been to in the last week:
  • Han Dynasty, an authentic Sichuan place (which is nice because we have been cooking Sichuan food at home for awhile now and it really raised our standards).

  • Taqueria Veracruzana, which has cheap, delicious Mexican tacos, great guacamole, and will deliver for free.

  • Dim Sum Garden, the only place I have ever had soup dumplings, but man are they good.

  • Erawan, the best Thai lunch special I have ever had plus great service and an excellent price.
We also took advantage of our houseguests as unpaid labor to help bottle our saison, which has been fermenting like a snail, sloth, or other slow animal since June. It should be good but it's been so slow! That's the only style of beer we can even make this time of year because of the temperature; next year we will probably brew more in the spring and try to have some beer saved up for summer.
clevermynnie: (I see beauty)
I ended up spending nearly all of this weekend making food and beer, because Ben and I planned poorly and didn't think how tired we would be of cleaning the kitchen if we made two batches of beer and had guests for dinner and made random additional foods like sourdough bread. It was delicious even if now I want to not cook for awhile.

The beers we made will probably be our last ales for awhile, because summer will be hot and our basement will not stay cool enough to make most beers. Over the summer we'll probably just make a Belgian ale or two, specifically a Saison because those can ferment anywhere from 75-95 degrees Fahrenheit. The two things we made this weekend were a cherry wheat beer (which Ben made to spite Sam Adams) and a barleywine, which take a long time to ferment but are delicious. I had barleywine for the first time shortly after moving here, when a physics department party had a case of Blithering Idiot. Yum.

For the guests we had, we made Sinaloense Grilled Chicken on our barbeque, calabacitas, and homemade corn tortillas, and then for dessert I had made a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. Also, at random other points in the weekend I made a salad with awesome heirloom tomatoes, sourdough bread, and coconut rice with sliced strawberries on top. Yeah, it was that kind of weekend.

Also, our mostly-herb garden is great this year. Our blackberry bush is still huge, engulfing one side of the yard and covered in tiny green blackberries, and our rosemary, sage, spearmint, and catnip all came back. We got a strawberry plant last year that spread wildly, so we're going to have a lot of strawberries soon. We picked up some parsley, cilantro, and basil, and also planted two tomato plants. I also babied some peas until they sprouted, carefully transplanted them, and after horrendous attrition rates we now have two sugar snap pea vines on our fence. Well, it's better than nothing. Our yard isn't big, and most of it is brick patio that we can't remove, but I'm happy to be getting so much stuff out of it.

edinburgh

Apr. 23rd, 2010 09:00 pm
clevermynnie: (wealthy young woman-about-town)
I had originally intended to post about the different sections of my trip after returning to Philadelphia, and to post pictures at the same time. But, here I am still in Geneva, with no camera cable on hand... I will just start writing about things and get to the pictures when I can.

Overall, my aim was to expand what would have been a trip just for a conference in Germany into something where I got to travel a bit more in Europe, to a few places I hadn't seen before, and along the way to see several friends who live here (which means, several friends that I hadn't seen in awhile because I can't easily afford to visit). The first stop was Edinburgh, which is where [livejournal.com profile] erindubitably lives; she is an old school friend of Ben and of my college roommate [livejournal.com profile] chih who I hadn't seen since our wedding. So I was visiting her and her really awesome partner [livejournal.com profile] marrog for around four days.

At this point in the trip, I was still recovering from the stress of getting everything done before leaving, and I was anticipating the stressful things that would happen in the conference (which I'll go into more detail about when I get to that), but I was also super happy to not be in the lab, and to have a break from all that, and to be somewhere totally new, and to be with such fun people! We actually did a lot of sight-seeing in those few days: Princes Street, the National Gallery of Scotland, the Museum of Scotland, St. Giles Church, the Scottish Parliament, hiking up to Arthur's Seat, an exhibition of Antarctic exploration photos at the Queen's Gallery, Cadenhead whiskey shop with people who know more about it than I do (read: everyone), and Edinburgh Castle. Now that I read over that it looks like a lot, but it didn't feel hectic at all, on the contrary: everything was really relaxed and leisurely and I loved that. On top of which, we played Trivial Pursuit in a pub and I went to two game nights with Erin and Morag's friends, both of which were really fun. I have been going to game nights with Ben's lab recently, and now I am convinced that they should try playing the Battlestar Galactica board game; it had a steep learning curve and was a little confusing for me, but I think that might be necessary for a first-timer in the sort of strategy game that's fun even after a lot of play. Having the soundtrack on in the background was great, and actually I was talking about that later in Geneva and got someone to start watching the show who hadn't seen it before. :D And the game in which we made up our own cards was... really hilarious. I have to do that again.

Also, while I was there I had asked Erin to take some portraits of me, because she often posts such portraits on her lj and they are wonderful. She posted a few of the pictures she took here and I think they are quite nice. Taking them was also pretty funny, even though I have such a hard time keeping a straight face. Which accounts for a lot, I think.

And the food was an adventure. I took the plunge and tried haggis at the first opportunity, and while I was mostly doing it for the experience it was much better than I had anticipated. I sort of pictured a stomach, stuffed with offal, that I would have to cut into and eat horrible bits of. But of course that would be a huge quantity of meat, so instead what you are served just ends up looking like some miscellaneous sausage-y bits. The spicing was what was really interesting though; it was a warm kind of cinnamon-y taste that I really enjoyed. It was heavy food but very tasty. I also had oatcakes, haloumi, fish and chips, great Indian food.... mmm. On top of that, I had several interesting drinks including a rhubarb ginger soda, a couple delicious alcoholic ginger beers, beer that was aged in a whiskey cask, and quite a few kinds of Scottish whiskey (to the point that I started to see what some people like about it). Food-wise, lots of new fun things!

Ok, now is where I feel slightly awkward that the people I visited are reading this. I will be honest, I was a little nervous about going to Scotland. I had seen Erin a lot, but pretty much always with Chih or Ben and rarely one-on-one. And I had never met Morag, and only knew her through livejournal pretty much. I was pretty sure I would enjoy visiting them, but wondered briefly if it would be... weird, I guess, is the word I'm looking for. In general, I take a long time to get really comfortable with people, which worked against me here. That said, I got along with both of them so well. It was a lot of fun to spend more time one-on-one with Erin, and I really enjoyed Mo's company as well and found a lot to discuss with both of them. Which made the trip totally awesome, even more awesome than it already was, which was very. Now I just wish that they lived closer!

So when I said that Edinburgh was perfect for me, what I meant was that I found it very fulfilling culturally, socially, culinarily, even meteorologically... and it was a great thing to have in between stressful work and the stressful but very inspiring conference. I enjoyed being there immensely, and someday I will post pictures as well!
clevermynnie: (Default)
My sister-in-law Aimee was visiting this weekend, and she arrived just before it snowed 26 inches which means we spent most of her visit inside, cooking and talking. We went out once on Saturday, for hot chocolate from Betty's Speakeasy a block away, and twice today, once to give our neighbor who shoveled for us cookies and once to take Aimee to the train station. So mostly we just relaxed inside; we made a Shaker Lemon Pie, spiced molasses oatmeal cookies, sourdough bread, crepes stuffed with pumpkin cheesecake, beignets, maple candy in snow, and dan dan noodles. We made her try our homebrewed cider and whitbeer, and opened a bottle of mead that we started in September (it was interesting but too young, so the other one will wait awhile longer before we drink it).

I have a couple of pictures from the snow this weekend and a couple of pictures from the last time we brewed that I wanted to share... and I have a weird picture of a "snowman" we made. The snow was piling up on our barbeque which we still have not taken inside, so Ben made a snow head on it using cherries and a carrot... when it got dark out the snow head became kind of alarming, leering in at us in the kitchen. And when I say alarming, I also mean, hilarious.

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yards, originally uploaded by clevermynnie.

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