Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Diner Isn't Always a Diner

Last week a coworker and I took the HR Manager out to lunch for her birthday. We decided to try out Family Meal. It's one of the newer creations of Bryan Voltaggio, owner of Volt in Frederick, MD. We had a great meal, even tho there was some confusion as to who our waitress was at any given time.

Great Design, this used to be a car dealership

We all started off with an Iced Tea. I really loved the detail of branding the sweeteners. It's just one of those little things that are so often overlooked. Why advertise Equal or Splenda when you can use it as an opportunity to advertise your establishment? The other cool thing was the ice. It's square and melts really slowly so as to not water down your drink.

We started off with the Chicken Pot Pie Fritters. They were kinda like tater-tots, but with the yummy goodness of Chicken Pot Pie inside. Great comfort food re-imagined!

Turns out, you can fry anything!

One of coworkers got the burger. It is topped with cheddar, bacon and caramelized onions. I did sample a bite and was burping those onions the rest of the afternoon. Darn my tummy!

The pickle was really good too.

I got the Mac & Cheese, of course. Anytime I see it on a menu I have to sample it. It was perfectly crispy and made with Tillamook Cheddar, which is one of my favs.

Warm cheesy goodness!

The HR Manager ordered the Grilled Chicken Sandwich. It includes roasted peppers, provolone cheese, shiitake mushroom and a delightful basil mayo. I tried it too and it was delish, but darn those peppers!

They had pounded the chicken thin...nice touch!

Ok, we ate a lot of food, but I was not leaving till we sampled the Duck Fat Fried Potatoes. They come with 3 dipping sauces...a spicy mayo, smokey ketchup and an amazing pesto. I couldn't get enough of them and wanted to order a second, but they stopped me.

Duck fat! Who knew???

I ordered coffee because I love the blend they use at Volt. If I'm not mistaken, this is the same creature. Even cooler was the vessel the cream came in.

I sooo want to steal one of these cream containers!

Since it was the HR Manager's birthday, we had to order dessert. I know...the horror! We let her choose, so gracious of us! She chose the Chocolate Earl Grey Donuts. They come with hazelnut pudding on top and a scoop of Coffee Ice Cream. Now I'm not a huge chocolate fan, but these were great. They were crispy on the outside, but warm and almost fudge-like on the inside. The ice cream was great, but for 3 of us it would have been nice to have an additional scoop.

Yes, we sang to her!

It was a great meal. I'll be going back, but I hope to see some changes to their menu. Typically a diner has a huge menu and Family Meal...not so much. I would love to see their take on meatloaf! I would also like to check out their breakfast menu someday. Tho, when am I ever out of bed early enough to do that???

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cookography: Brie, Cranberry & Pecan Tarts

We interrupt this Holiday Season to talk about the last one...Thanksgiving. Yeah, I 'm behind on posts, sue me! Anyway, I am always tasked with bringing a light appetizer to Thanksgiving dinner. It's my lot in life. Also, it's easily transportable. Last year I took the Pumpkin Garlic Bites. They were a huge hit and just the right savory combination of flavors.

This year, I was looking for a baked tart of some kind. I found something along the lines of what I was considering on the web, but it wasn't exactly what I wanted so, as I tend to do...I modified it. Here are Brie, Canberry & Pecan Tarts.

Warm, yummy, sweet and savory

They're incredibly simple to put together and since everyone complains that I never provide recipes, here is a stab at one. Remember, I hardly every use them, so take this with a grain of salt.

          Brie, Cranberry & Pecan Tarts

                    8 T   Chopped Pecans
                    8 T   Chopped Craisins
                    4 T   Honey
                    8 oz  Wheel of Brie
                    30     Filo Tart Shells

         Mix together the pecans, craisins and honey in a small bowl. Add a little extra honey if it's too dry. Here is what that will look like. Everything nicely coated, but there shouldn't be extra honey pooling anywhere.

Yeah, I could just eat this by the spoonful.

Leave it to sit at room temperature while you cut the skin off the brie and cube it into roughly half inch by quarter inch cubes. (Note: I found it easiest to cut the wheel into the half inch cubes first and then simply cut each of those cubes in half and then cut the skin off).

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and place the tart shells on a non-stick baking sheet. Place a cube of brie in each tart shell and cover with the pecan/craisin mixture. Use all of the pecan craisin mixture. They may look over-filled, but as the brie melts it all fills in nicely. Bake for approximately 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them. I found in order to get things nicely combined I wound up baking them a little longer.

Let them cool a bit before tasting. I got anxious and burned the heck out of my mouth. That honey is hot!!! Even at room temperature they still tasted great. My Mom also just took these to a Christmas Party and they were a huge hit.

One last Thanksgiving thought...I ate too much!

My view of the table.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Theatre: ECSETATS (One Heck of an Acronym!)

Last evening I had the pleasure of traveling to Martinsburg, WV to see my BFF Tod in a production of "Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then some)". Well, the travel wasn't a pleasure, lot's of highway construction and crazy drivers. But the show was delightful.

The show is as jam-packed as the poster

I had never experienced this particular show and Tod wouldn't even let me help him learn his lines because he wanted it to not be spoiled for me. In the space of what seemed to be a half hour, they managed to stuff every Christmas story I could think of into a very tight stocking. The audience was catapulted from Dickens to Grinch to Charlie Brown like so many flying reindeer. Or as they're referred to in the play "Reingoats". (some sort of licensing issue)

Tod was joined onstage by Diana Jurand and Tim Eichelberger, both of which gave amazing performances. Ms. Jurand is nothing short of a master at accents. So much so that when an Australian accent popped out of her mouth I was surprised, but probably shouldn't have been considering the round-the-world trip she had taken us on throughout the evening. When Mr. Eichelberger stepped to the front of the stage, gently pulled a blue blanket out his pocket and proceeded to deliver Linus' christmas speech from "It's Christmas Charlie Brown" I was moved to tears. It's no surprise that he played most, if not all, of the children's roles in the show. His honesty on stage and sheer innocence was of clear effect on the audience.

What can I say about my BFF Tod that won't be construed as blowing sunshine up his a*s? Well, the show begins as a production of "A Christmas Carol" before it starts it's merry race through the Christmas Story Canon (at first to Tod's characters chagrin). I really enjoyed watching the transformation of his character as he eventually throws himself in the frivolity. When the voice of Jimmy Stewart popped out of his mouth in the form of George Bailey from "It's a Wonderful Life" I was giddy with laughter as was the rest of the audience. Still, I have to say I would really like to see him perform the entire roll of Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" some day.

All in all it was a solid production. That can probably be attributed greatly to it's director, DC Cathro. Not everyone can weave a coherent production out of so much chaos. I can only imagine what things backstage look like for this show. I'm thinking it's something akin to "Noises Off" where the backstage drama of quick changes, running actors and shear panic is practically as entertaining as what is happening onstage. Kudos to the crew for keeping it running smoothly, or at least making it appear to the audience that what is happening onstage is what is supposed to be happening.

This will mark the 4th (I think) show I have been to at the Apollo Civic Theatre in Martinsburg. I have been quite impressed with their work. Even "1776"! It's a show I hate and their production didn't make me hate it less, but I did really enjoy the experience. The rest of their season includes "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", "High School Reunion, the Musical" and "Hello Dolly!" I would highly recommend checking out any or all of those performances out for yourself.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dick...Liz & Dick

Finally, a post where I can use the word dick all I want and not have it flagged as dirty. Also finally, Lifetime aired a movie I might be the least interested in seeing.

She really does look like her

Many critics lauded this movie as a train wreck months before it even aired. After viewing it in it's entirety, I actually was kind of impressed.

My first exposure to Lindsay Lohan was her starring role in The Parent Trap, many years ago. I was captivated by her performance. She brought an essence to the movie that even the original Haley Mills didn't.

Since then, like everyone I have been over shadowed by her tabloid presence more so than that of her acting. That is, until now.

Liz & Dick isn't a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but I do feel that it is a shockingly, possibly true representation of their relationship. I think most of the world has created a vision of Elizabeth Taylor and Dick, that transcends reality. I think what the producers of this movie sought to portray were the real people behind the media hype.

I almost wish that the entire movie had consisted of Liz & Dick sitting in front of the camera as they did from time to time throughout. Their candor during those scenes was amazing! People often forget that during their relationship Liz was a young, immature girl (she was 29 when they met and had done 29 films...not a situation that fosters maturity) and I feel that Lindsay captured that. It's very easy to take the icon that Liz became and easily apply that to every characterization of her for eternity. But she wasn't always an icon, famous and spectacular, but not always an icon.

This movie captures that time. The time when Liz was a wildly successful actress, but not yet an icon. For that viewpoint I am grateful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

San Fran: The Hotel

In my 13 years traveling I have stayed at more hotels than I can count. One chain of hotels I haven't had the pleasure of staying in is The W Hotel brand. This time in San Fran, I got my chance. Granted, this hotel chain is a little more upscale than I would ever stay in if I was traveling on my dime. But if someone else is paying...I'm there!

I had a standard room, so it was small. But some of the touches were very highbrow.

Mirrored clouds on the headboards.

The art in the bathroom was also much more upscale than you find at most hotels. This piece is just amazing. It made me smile every time I peed.

Fashioned out of vintage airline tickets.

The elevators alone were amazing. Not for their speed, but for their art. The tree is a layered glass effect.

A little tripy, the leaves seemed to move as you did.

One thing this hotel does, that I guess a lot of hotels are going towards is being "Green". Upon checkin they offered me a deal where I could opt for maid service every other day and get 500 Starwood Guest Points for every day I didn't have maid service. Well, I'm not a messy person so I said yes to the deal. What it really comes down to is a way for them to save money on maid services. But who am I to complain. I did get to complain one day tho. 

After being at the convention center for 14 hours, I returned to my room at 7pm to find the maid still cleaning it. I was less than pleased and immediately went down to the front desk to complain. I mean, I had been gone for 14 hours...that maid had plenty of time to get to my room before I returned! The young lady at the front desk was sympathetic, she said, "Sir, how can I possibly make this right for you?" I said, "Well you can give me vouchers for a couple free drinks at the bar while I wait for my room to be ready." Without batting an eye she immediately produced 2 drink vouchers and sent me on my way. Moral of the story...a cocktail or 2 goes a long way towards my happiness.

I liked the cocktail as much as the flower.

That is the Meadowlark. It's a combination of vodka, fresh lemon juice and a lavender syrup. It was very tasty and 2 of these was well worth having to wait a bit for my room to be cleaned.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

San Fran: The Food

Let's travel back in time to a few weeks ago. I was in San Francisco. I don't know exactly where any of you might have been. Even if I did know, I 'm sure I've forgotten by now. What I haven't forgotten is all of the wonderful food I was able to sample in San Francisco while I was there.

I have found a new love...don't worry Hubby, it's a burger. A Super Duper Burger to be exact. Around here we have Five Guys Burgers & Fries, but in San Fran, they have Super Duper Burgers, and I have to say...they are super duper! 

You can get a double or a single burger and their garlic fries are to DIE for! Yeah, I ate here 4 times during the trip. Twice was to prove to other people how amazing the place is. The sacrifices I make for others!!!

Heaven on a cute little metal tray!

You really do need that wrapper on the burger in order to eat it. They are so juicy that your hands are a mess till your finished even with the wrapper. A word or warning...if you order the garlic fries, you will smell like garlic through the following day. I woke up the next morning and even my pillow smelled like garlic.

My coworkers and I took the client out to dinner one evening to a delightful little place called oola. Right off the bat, I have to tell you that the service was less than exceptional. We were a group of 10 and they really didn't seem to have the ability to service a group that large. I would guess that a party of 2 or 4 would have a delightful experience here. 

Yeah, they need to clean the bird poop off their sign.

Their real claim to fame is their cocktail menu. They offer a lot of prohibition era cocktails that are made with the finest ingredients. I was intrigued by the Dark & Stormy. It's a combination of incredibly dark rum, ginger and lime. It is indeed dark, so much so that I had to light it from behind with a candle to get a photo of it.

A storm is brewing
Pretty amazing cocktail. I need to start making these at home. I just need to find some really dark rum to do it with.

For dinner, I chose their 4 Cheese Mac & Cheese and roasted brussel sprouts. Everything was very tasty, I just wish it had arrived faster. I do have to say...the waiter did keep the cocktails coming, that's a plus. I apologize for the lighting, the cocktails aren't the only dark thing at this place.

I don't remember what 4 cheeses...but does it really matter?

Tender, perfect!

The meal really was delicious. I am so glad I wasn't paying for it. I mean, those cocktails were $12 a piece and I know I drank more than 6 of them. Thankfully the big wigs didn't say a word. Cause if they had I would have answered with, "13 years...last up!"

That was all of the savory food from the trip. Some nights we were finished so late and I was so tired that I just grabbed a sandwich at Subway. One nice little treat were the cupcakes that the convention & visitors association brought to us. Yes, I ate one or two despite the carbs involved.

At first glance, I thought this cupcake was cussing at me.

Well, I don't travel again until New Year's and that will be to Las Vegas. So I might not have much on-the-road food to talk about until then.

Monday, November 12, 2012

This is a Test: Winter Mint

Look! A new column!!! Most people assume that the confidence with which I attack my projects somehow means I have any idea how they are going to turn out. Little secret...most of the time I have no idea what the outcome will be. So, I have created the "This is a Test" column for times when I'm relatively sure that the outcome could be way worse than I imagine it to be.

I have always considered mint to be a summer delicacy. Most consider it a weed, for me it's the main ingredient in my amazing Mojitos. Mojito season officially runs Memorial Day to Labor Day for me mainly because that is when the mint flourishes. For some reason, perhaps because temps have been fairly mild here this fall, my mint is still growing.

I've decided to try storing some for the winter. Who knows...maybe I'll have Mojitos on New Year's? Anyway, I did a little research and the 2 most prevalent ways for storing mint are to freeze it inside ice cubes or to vacuum seal it. I've opted for vacuum sealing simply because the packages of finished product take up a lot less space in the freezer than a bag of ice cubes would.

I began by harvesting my mint. I pretty much decimated the plant. Winter is coming and it'll be totally dead soon, I just helped it along. Here is my harvested and carefully selected mint.

Minty heaven in a colander

Once I washed it off and patted it dry, I let it sit for a while. All of the websites said that the mint should be as dry as possible prior to vacuum sealing it. My hands still smell like mint from all the handling I did. I love that! I get the same joy out of handling basil.

I then dug out my trusty FoodSaver machine and sealed up the mint. I think it did pretty well.

FoodSaver in no way paid for this endorsement.
The true test will be when I go to use it. I'll be sure to blog about the first ever Winter Mojito!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Yep! I Live in the Country

I've talked a lot about my house, but I haven't discussed a lot about the area I live in. It's a pretty small town in Western Maryland. I can traverse the 2 main streets of the town in about 10 minutes, if that gives you any idea of the size. The town is surrounded by a variety of agriculture. There are 6 orchards within a 3 minute drive of my house and an excellent butcher who's offerings come from a 30 mile circumference of the town. can't get fresher than that for produce and meats. More importantly there are 2 liquor stores within a 3 minute drive. You can't get anymore drunk than that!!!

I've always live rurally. I grew up in a slightly larger Small Town than I live in now. There is something truly priceless about small town living. Sure, I could have moved to somewhere a bit more cosmopolitain, but why? I have everything I need right here.

My town even has parades...3 of them a year, and my house is directly on the parade route. We have the Carnival Parade every summer, the Homecoming Parade in the fall and every year...the parade that accompanies the annual Steam & Craft Festival. Steam? What??? Well yes, every year they haul out the ancient steam powered farm machinery that powered our early nation and show it off. In addition they have great food and well...crafts. I'm not so much into the crafts, but the food...I enjoy that very much.

During the parade you see sights such as this...

Yep, powered entirely by steam.

And this...

It's like a train and tractor combined!

Aside from some of the cool steam powered engines that I'm hoping are around when the Zombie Apocalypse hits, it also is a very family centered affair.

Like father, like son..oh wait, like daughter? Good for her!

The scary part of the parade is at the end. Everyone in town who owns a riding lawn mower saddles up and rides through town behind the steam engines.

 I'm so glad I don't own a riding mower.

Only slightly more shocking are some of the social idioms the parade seemed to enforce. Photographical evidence follows...

Wife in the wagon.

Grandma in the wagon.

And yep...grandma is clutching a flag in that picture. So yes, I do live in the country. A town where the women-folk aren't allowed to drive mowers, but are resigned to riding in the wagon. If I had a riding lawnmower and a wagon you had better believe The Hubby would be driving it while I sat in the wagon with Molly, sipping on a martini and throwing candy and condoms out to those observing!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bulbs...And I Don't Mean Flowers

Well, here it is getting chilly here in Maryland. Sorry I haven't posted in so long. Just so you know we are going to be doing some time traveling. I'm starting out with some current posts and then will go back in time to cover some things I was too lazy to post while they were happening.

Back to bulbs...light bulbs, that is. I am trying something new and not for the reasons you might think. I have 2 light bulbs, one outside and one inside that require a 17 ft ladder to change. They both recently went out at the same time which is sort of a saving grace. It means only having lug the ladder around one day.

Yeah, you wouldn't want to change that either!

I headed off to Lowe's  yesterday to check out my lighting options. I usually buy "Rough Usage" bulbs (Sounds a little kinky, doesn't it?) for these fixtures because the front of my house gets so much vibration from the road. Normal bulbs last about 3 days in these fixtures and that's just a huge pain. Once I got to the store, I was confronted by way more lighting choices than I felt like making that day.

There are the normal incandescent bulbs, well I knew I wasn't messing with those. There are the CFS bulbs. I am not a fan...not only are they rather delicate, but I don't enjoy the quality of light they give off at all. I feel like the light they give off is the same quality of that in a morgue. 

What surprised me was the huge selection of LED light bulbs they had now. I have a lot of accent lighting that is powered by LED's, but I never really considered it's other lighting possibilities. LED's are great, they are bright and they last forever! The LED lighting I have as been going strong for 8 years now. I opted for a couple of bulbs that were equal to 75 watts, a little less than I have used in these location in the past. LED bulbs are fairly expensive at the moment compared to their incandescent brothers. I paid $40 each for the 2 bulbs I bought. There were even more expensive options...but I'm on a budget, no time for lighting frivolity. 

I pulled out the incredibly long ladder and installed the bulbs today. Now I can't wait for it to get dark to see how well they perform. I think over time the LED bulbs will come down in price and I could see myself converting the entire home over to LED. Mind you, I'm not so concerned about the economy of it...I just love the idea of hardly ever having to change a lightbulb!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

I'm a Bad, Bad Boy

Hi Folks, I apologize for the lack of postings as of late. Work and life have conspired to zap my creative strengths recently. Never fear! I am off to San Francisco on a business trip for 2 weeks and that should provide plenty of creative fodder for posts.

Granted, depending on the schedule while there, you might not see them till I get back. But I'll see what I can do about that. Maybe I can write some posts while I am actually working?

Talk to you soon.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Dream is a Wish Your Stomach Makes

Scott, Tod and I were on our way to Altoona, PA for what has become our annual pilgrimage to the AIDS benefit at Escapade Bar. Abigail wasn't performing this year due to "The Blood Clot Incident" so Scott and I were along as Drag Lackey and Cocktail Lackey.

Last year our hosts had taken us out to dinner at Cracker Barrel. Very thoughtful of them, but certainly not a place I would ever choose to dine on my own. So this year when I heard they were taking us to dinner I asked Tod that we please not eat at Cracker Barrel. Certainly Altoona has to have some local cuisine that could outmatch the "Barrel". I mean, on any given day Denny's pretty much does. We wound up at...

Just a quick hop over to Holidaysburg.

The Dream, and it was pretty dreamy. We had a very brief wait for our table and while we were waiting we were simply blown away by the bakery's display case. Sorry, I didn't get a picture of that. It was just bursting with every type of pastry you could ever need, want, or desire. They even had gluten free items, which I think is a great sign of the times.

Anyway, we were seated and then came the difficult task of choosing what to order.

Fairly sizable menu.

Usually when I'm confronted by a menu of this diversity, I wait to hear what the specials are, and I'm glad I did. We all ordered and then the waitress brought the bread. If you've followed my blog at all, you know my stance on processed flour, but even I couldn't resist the hot, fluffy goodness that was placed before us.

I did stick with the whole wheat one tho. No sense goin crazy!

I  did not sample the cinnamon/sugar butter that came with the bread. 100% butter was just fine with me. The guys said the flavored butter was great and Scott even took the leftovers back to the hotel with him. Next came our salads.

Creamy, savory cole slaw

I opted for the cole slaw once I discovered that it wasn't a sweet version. I have to be fairly cautious with my veggie choices because of "The Blood Clot Incident", too much green stuff and my blood thickens up like molasses on a winter day. I am a sucker for a good cole slaw. This one was creamy enough to stick to the cabbage, but still delightfully slick on the tongue. I really liked the addition of the paprika, it gave the dish a nice little splash of color.

Ok, I've been teasing you a bit with my choice of main course...and I'm going to continue for just a bit and discuss what the other ordered. Tod got ribs, which were one of the specials. Huge serving, he couldn't finish it and still be able to perform later. Scott got some sort of something with steamed veggies. He seemed to like it but I still have know idea what it was. Tod's friends got hot roast beef and hot turkey sandwiches which looked amazing and was making be debate whether I had made the right selection. But then my plate came and any doubt immediately vanished.

Chicken Cordon Bleu and FRIES!

Heaven! OMG!!! There were a few things about this dish that were different from other CCB's I've had. First, it wasn't rolled. The cheese and the ham had been rolled, but then they were just placed beneath the chicken breast and baked. I found this style more enjoyable from the slicing and eating standpoint. It created a much more balanced flavor. You weren't getting more chicken than filling because there was only one layer or chicken, not a roll. The other delightful aspect of the dish was that the ham was sliced very thin. So often with CCB's it's just a chunk of ham stuck in the middle. No fun. The fries were amazing too. Crispy, hot and tender in the middle...exactly the way I love them. Not to mention the fact that there was, what I believe to be, homemade ranch dressing to dip them in.

The real shame is that after all of this food, none of us had any room left to sample anything from the bakery case. I really wanted to try one of those gluten free brownies and in hindsight probably should have gotten one to go.

Oh well...that just gives me a good reason to dream The Dream again!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Not "That Cuban Place"

Things are a little confusing here in my little town. We have a restaurant called "That Cuban Place", but this post is not about that cuban place. This post is about the cuban place that is better than "That Cuban Place".  This cuban place is Sabor De Cuba.

It is located in Frederick, MD right in the thick of the downtown area. We have so many great restaurants in that area, many of which I have spoken about here. My coworkers and I hit Sabor De Cuba one day for lunch.

Don't tell my boss!

I decided I had to try one of their Mojitos. You can't feast at a cuban restaurant and not sample this iconic drink. Besides, it was a Friday and I didn't have a lot on my plate back at the office. I have to say, it wasn't as good as the ones I make, but in the grand scheme of the Mojito Universe it was quite good.

Minty, limey goodness

One trick I noticed is that here the bartender blends the ingredients before placing them in the glass rather than muddling them in the glass. The upside of this is that the mint pieces wind up small enough to make it up the straw as you're sipping. The downside is that it tints the cocktail green. Not the typical color of a muddled Mojito. I've always enjoyed the contrast of the clear cocktail with the mint leaves myself.

For my lunch I ordered the Cuban Sandwich, how could I not? This place definitely gets these right...perfect, in fact.

Yes...I ate the bread.

A Cuban Sandwich, for those of you who have never sampled one, consists of roast pork, ham, swiss cheese, mustard, and pickle. It is then pressed like a Panini so the insides get nice and gooey and the bread gets nice and crispy.

I have sampled this sandwich all over the country and there is only one restaurant in Miami who makes one that is better than this one at Sabor De Cuba. I warn you tho, they don't reheat very well so be prepared to finish this delight all in one sitting. It's really not that difficult, just skip the appetizers.

NOTE: In all fairness, I have personally not tried "That Cuban Place", but coworkers of mine have and didn't have the best things to say about it. I plan to check it out for myself at some point and will post my review here.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Une Believable!

Lately I have been keeping an eye on Kick Starter. If you are unfamiliar with it, it's a site where inventors post their projects hoping to find the funding to produce them. There is some pretty cool stuff on there and a lot of it is getting the funding it needs to become reality. 

One of the projects that I got really excited about is the Une Bobine. It is a flexible phone stand/charger. It allows you to position the phone pretty much anywhere you want it. For someone who loves their phone almost as much as the people in my life (I mean, I do sleep with it every night), this is something I have been seeking for a very long time. 

I donated $50 to their Kick Starter campaign and a few months after they had reached their funding goal I received 2 Une Bobine of my very own.

Twisty Turny

Within perfect reach

As you can see, it is now perfectly within reach of my fingers when I am sitting at my iMac. The stand is even stable enough for me to use the touch screen in this position.

The second one, I bought for use in my car. I'm still playing with it's positioning to get it in the perfect spot so I can use the phone while driving without crashing. Of course now that Apple has changed the plug for their new iPhone 5, I'll have to wait to upgrade until such time as there is an Une Bobine for that plug. Oh well, it's the best reason I've found for not spending the money on a phone upgrade right now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Craftaculosity: The "Woods" Basket

Once again I had the fortunate chance to design a Cocktail Configurations Basket for a local charity's benefit. The event was being held in conjunction with the Reunion Show at The Lodge. It was an amazing night! More people packed that tiny log cabin in the woods than I had seen there in years! It was great seeing all of the performers who hadn't graced the stage since the place was known as Deer Park Lodge many years ago.

For the event, I traveled down memory lane and created a cocktail basket that recalled my own precious memories from the heyday of Deer Park. I give you "The Sex in the Woods" basket. Don't judge.

I stopped while it was still tasteful...don't ask!

The tagline reads, "It's like 'Sex on the Beach' only darker...and you don't wind up with sand in your junk!" Basically, I took the standard Sex on the Beach cocktail recipe and constructed it with dark spiced rum instead of vodka. You'll find my recipe at the end of the post. But first, a few more pics.

The basket was a hit and brought in $200 in the auction. Again, more than I ever would have personally written a check for! Here is the recipe for the drink.

               The Sex in the Woods

                   2oz   Spiced Rum (I use Bacardi Oakheart)
                   1oz   Peach Schnapps
                   2oz   Cranberry Juice
                   2oz   Orange/Pineapple Juice

                   Mix all ingredients together in a cocktail shaker
                   with ice, shake well and pour into a Collins Glass
                   filled with ice. Garnish with an orange stabbed
                   by a twig.

I went out on a limb and didn't test this recipe in my own bar before offering it up for auction. I was fairly certain it would taste ok at the the very least. I have since heard back from the folks who purchased the basket and the cocktail was a huge hit. Lesson learned? Don't be afraid to just take a shot in the dark every now and then. Course I 'm not sure I've ever been afraid to take a shot...unless it was made with J├Ągermeister (Ick)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Call Me...

...Maybe. It's been the hit song of the summer. I found myself trying to avoid it for simply that reason. Having seen the inspired creativity the song has led to, I can't resist it anymore. Now it even has a Glee version.

That really can't compare to this orchestral and choral version.

It just amazes me that a bippy little dance number can go this far and be this wonderful. So I am hooked. I have started a playlist in iTunes devoted entirely to Call Me Maybe creativity and when I'm at the club I just simply can't resist dancing to it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Presto Pesto!

I have a terrible weakness, ok fine...I have many. But, one of my most crippling is the search for really great Pesto. I try Pesto dishes whenever I can at restaurants, hoping that they've gotten it right. Some have and some haven't. So, the easiest way for me to satisfy my hunger for the Perfect Pesto is to make my own.

This weekend I harvested our Basil plant and proceeded to turn it into amazing MAGIC! Now, let me first say that I don't use a recipe for this. A good Pesto "recipe" is all about feel and consistency. Some people prefer a wetter Pesto, some a dryer. I fall into the latter. I will walk you through my process.

Fresh from the garden...Thanks Hubby!

Granted, I should have harvested this Basil two weeks ago in it's prime, but my schedule just didn't allow for it. Still, it worked just fine. One should always start with very fresh green Basil when making Pesto. That being said, I have whipped up some passable Pesto in the past (wow alliteration!) using some high quality dried basil, but I certainly don't recommend that...except in the case of Zombie Apocalypse. 

Now, lets talk nuts. I use Pine Nuts, but there are folks that say that Walnuts work just fine...I don't agree with them, but they are entitled to their opinion. For me, Pine Nuts impart an unusual flavor your just can't get from the namby pamby Walnut. Save your Walnuts for cookies people!

Toasting is touchy!

When toasting Pine Nuts, you have to be paying attention. Pine Nuts go from browned to black in like 3 seconds! These took about 10 minutes on low heat and I was constantly flipping them around in the pan. I used just slightly over a 1/3rd of a cup pretty much because that is how many were in the bag.

Garlic! It's one of the main ingredients of Pesto and I like a lot of it!

Heaven in a hard to peel container.

I used 4 cloves of garlic for my Pesto. I was going to go for 6 cloves, but I got tired of peeling it. OK, so once you have assembled everything, you throw it all into your food processor.

About to be pulverized!

Here it is. My Basil, the Garlic, the Pine Nuts, Parmesan Cheese, and a dash of salt and pepper. Heck, I could eat is as a salad just like this. I pulse this about a dozen times in the food processor just to get everything chopped up and saying, "Hi" to everyone. Then, with the food processor on high, I begin to very slowly drizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil into the mix. 

You want to keep an eye on this step. Too much EVOO and you wind up with really runny Pesto, which...if you like it that way, go for it. I prefer a dryer Pesto so I add just enough to incorporate the ingredients.

Once processed it looks pretty much like this.

Heaven in a Food Processor!

This was still a little lumpy for my tastes, so I processed it for a bit longer on high giving the blade time to cut it down even further. Here is my final result.

Just looking for some fresh pasta to mate with!
So, even after all of my careful oil pouring this turned out a little runnier than I prefer it. No problem, I just added some extra Parm to it. The cheese absorbed the oil perfectly.

Now comes the hard part. What to pair it with? Pasta? Chicken? Pork? Spread it on a piece of bread and be done? Eat it by the spoonful right out of the food processor??? That is the great thing about Pesto, you can do ANYTHING with it. I have opted this evening to coat a chicken breast in it and bake it. Nummy!

What so you like to do with Pesto? Sound off in the comments.