Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I'm a mean one...

Christmas is here. Yay.

Let's review the positives of Christmas:

  • Twelve days off work (this is HUGE)
  • Brother home from college (again, this is nice)
  • Um... my mom likes Christmas
  • I get to listen to the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack on my ipod
  • I like Christmas trees
That's it. I was going to go into a whole list of the reasons why I'm not feeling Christmas this year, but I don't really have the energy to get into it. I don't even have the energy to do my Christmas shopping (T minus <48 hours). And I'm fearful that I'll be exposed at Christmas dinner by a family member as the Grinchy ingrate if I let the Yuletide diatribe out. Chances are, Christmas won't be as bad as I fear... but there is a lot of room for a true freakfest. We shall see. At any rate, I hope your Christmas will be better than mine.

Geez - what a downer post. Time to post my favorite pick me up.

Ah, that's better.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Doggy Insomniac

Poor guy had a vet appointment from hell yesterday... He got his anal glands squeezed (be thankful you don't know about the joys of anal glanding non-dog owners), his teeth cleaned, his ear canals examined and degunked, and got microchipped.

He's recuperating with the aid of the slanket.  Here he is looking especially forlorn.  

He was all woozy from the anesthesia yesterday - he couldn't even bark at the Thai delivery guy.  "So quiet!", he exclaimed. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's thought that counts

These are the gifts that make the Insomniac household unique and my life would  be less bright without them.  

Item 1.

The popular monkey surgeon sculpture.  

This was actually given to Mr. Insomniac's brother from their parents who in turn gave it to Mr. Insomniac as a gag gift.  Mr. Insomniac's supposed to mail it back at some point in a large box buried with mounds of styrofoam peanuts, but we just can't part with it.

Item 2.

One day Mr. Insomniac called me at work, 
Him:  Our neighbor gave you a present.  
Me:  Oh?  What is it?  
Him: A piece of art.  
Me:  Why are you laughing? 
Him:  I just think it's funny how much he likes you.  
Me:  Hmm.  Where did it come from?
Him:  His brother made it - it's an original piece of art.
Me:  Really?   Would I like it?
Him:  Oh sure.
Me:  Really? (eyebrows raised)
Him:  Definitely (laughter)

I hang up the phone - not really convinced, but hoping for the best.  And what if it's Antique Roadshow valuable?  Our neighbor is old, he lives in a nice area - maybe I'm sitting on a treasure here!

This is what was waiting for me.  It is too heavy for me to lift on my own and it has a plug emanating from the back, implying that this contraption lights up.  Awesome.

The picture sucks, but it's a large wooden diorama of a hunter shooting birds in a Mexico desert.  Both the hunter and his trusty canine companion have become unglued and jostle around the diorama.  

Close up of the pioneer dude, free floating in the bright blue sky,

I'd love to get rid of it, but I couldn't have the neighbor see it in the trash or collecting dust in the garage.  I suggested taking it to Goodwill, but Mr. Insomniac is paranoid that our neighbor will see it and be offended.  He's old, Insomniac, he tells me.  So it's been sitting in our dining room for the past year.  Awesome.

Item 3.

A charming mug.

My mother went college touring with my youngest brother last year to the Southwest.  She asked me what I wanted for a souvenir, and I told her that she really didn't have to get me anything at all.  But she persisted, and so I asked for a small piece of pottery - maybe a small decorative pot or something.  After all, they have those in every shop in town.

So this is what she gives me.  The first time I unwrap it, it looks like this.  Not bad, Mom!  I love the color, it has a nice heft, I'm happy.  I'm envisioning hot cocoa with extra marshmallows.

Then I turn it around.

I blinked rapidly and try to turn my look of horror into a pleasant smile.  Once I got past the grotesque misshapen face, I read the words below.  "Know it all".  My mom pointed it out to me with a chuckle - see, that's you!  So I have an ugly mug and you've insulted me, Mom.  Gee, thanks.

But I do really like the back of it, so I've placed it near the door where it safely guards our pens and scissors.  I make sure to turn it completely around so that I never have to look upon the face of it.  It even survived a fall  last night when DoggyInsomniac knocked it over looking for dog treats.   I guess now the joke's on her.

Item 4.

This is my favorite.  A charming pug figurine from Mr. Insomniac's parents.

Cute, right?  Look at that detail!

Well, he's cute AND he he's useful.

Monty the pug has a place of honor in our living room as he performs the sacred task of safeguarding our remote control.   Now who else do you know that has a pug remote control holder?  No one, that's who.  It's a rare, one of a kind, objet d'art.  

Don't be jealous.  A person can only dream of the treasures that I have.   

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hatfield's Restaurant

I'm going to go on a diet.  I feel the fattest that I've felt in my life.  I can fit into three pairs of pants comfortably. It's time.  It's beyond time.  :(  But first - one last hurrah to gluttony!... this time in honor of the fabulous Mr. Insomniac!  

Enter Hatfield's restaurant.  What I wanted was a quiet, understated restaurant - not too fancy, not too stuffy - but that had amazing food.  And I fricking knocked it out of the park.  lol  Go me!

The edifice of the restaurant is really nothing to look at... the main dining room has about 10 tables and the outdoor patio has about 10 more and the maxium occupancy is 50.  We were greeted by Karen Hatfield (pastry chef and co-owner with her chef husband Quinn) and were seated in a secluded table on the wrap around patio deck.  We walked past a couple who had just gotten married a few hours ago and were gazing at each other with starry eyes.  The only light around was candlelight and the soft glow of the heat lamps.  Romance was in the air!

We started our meal with a little amuse bouche consisted of a deviled quail egg infused with smoked trout and a shotglass of butternut squash soup.  The quail egg was delicious and the perfect catalyst to get my taste buds a tingling.  We opted for the seven course chef's tasting menu and we were informed that it would be a duo tasting menu - that for each course, two different dishes would be prepared.  Awesome?  You betcha.  Many of the tasting items are on the current menu (noted with an *), and I will definitely be returning to eat some of my favorites.

So now it's time for the head to head battle! (ding ding!) 

"Croque Madame": grilled brioche, hamachi, prosciutto, quail egg*
Monkfish salad with celery root

I thought the croque madame would be a slam dunk, and indeed it was pretty tasty.  The brioche was delightfully light and buttery with a hint of sweetness.  But the monkfish salad was surprisingly savoury and had deliciously complex flavors.  I'm going to call this one a draw.

A fancy term for ravioli that I've never heard of stuffed with ricotta with a cinnamon butter sauce
Warm octopus salad with shoots of asparagus and assorted other tasties

I'd give to the octopus salad - Mr. Insominac gave it to the ravioli.  There really were no losers in this round.  But I think if I had to have a full plate of one of them, I'd go for the salad.  I think.  

Slow baked Tasmanian ocean trout, salsify carbonara, sautéed cabbage, hon shimeji mushrooms*
Sesame encrusted tuna with mushrooms and pureed brussell sprouts

I'd go with the trout, but the tuna put up a good fight.

Duck breast with crispy duck tongue over a smeared whiskey reduction with a serving of fois gras*
Duck and fois gras over a carrot ginger smear 

This was the sad part of the meal.  We lamented over the poor duck that had his tongue cut out.  But agreed that it was tasty.  These were great, but I can't really remember anything about them at the moment.  Except for the crispy duck tongue which was yummy.  Hmm.

Pan roasted duck breast, quinoa and mitake mushrooms, butternut squash, whiskey prune smear

Pork belly
Pan roasted hanger steak and slow cooked horseradish dusted short ribs, spring onion confit, smoked potato puree*

Cow > pig.  This was a no brainer for me... the short ribs were perfectly cooked and the steak was ridicously tender.  Great dish.  And it's on the regular menu too!

Lime cream "pie", gingersnap crust , huckleberry compote, cream cheese ice cream*
Buttermilk panna cota with a crispy wafer alongside a cranberry orange sorbet

Hands down this round went to the lime cream pie.  Mr. Insomniac loved the cream cheese ice cream and I was so taken with the gingersnap crust on the lime cream pie that I wanted to pound my fist on the table in celebration.  It's on the menu, so you can try it for yourself!  Flaky, buttery, crispy, sweet perfection is what it was.  The buttermilk panna cota and cranberry orange sorbet was a nice palate cleanser, but I didn't want to pound anything.  It was good though - honest!

Sugar and spice dusted beignets, Venezuelan chocolate fondu, vanilla malted milkshake shot*
Chocolate and peanut butter truffle cake, salted caramel ice cream, roasted peanut toffee*

I was all about the beignets which are on the regular menu.  I went even so far as to ask our waiter to bring us an order of them.  He regretfully responded (because he didn't want to ruin the surprise) that they will be the last course.  So I was beyond pleased when it arrived.  It didn't taste like the beignets at Cafe du Monde, but it was still tasty.  The chocolate fondu for dipping was richly nuanced and bittersweet and the milkshake shot was delicious and refreshing.

HOWEVER, I'm going to have to give it to the chocolate and peanut butter truffle cake.  When Mr. Insomniac and I switched plates and I spooned a portion in my mouth, I took a deep inhale and leaned back in my chair, blinking repeatedly.  It was surprisingly good.  I mean, I knew that Hatfield's had great desserts, but I was unprepared at how amazing this little bite of food would be.  It tasted like warm chocolate peanut butter cake... soft... like cookie dough.  I thought about when I was younger and my mom would call my brother and I to the kitchen for cookies.  I would bite into them and the chocolate would be all melty and the peanut butter would be warm and soft and... Then I spooned the salted caramel ice cream and again - another transcendent experience...  It was like I was Marcel Proust dunking madelines into cafe au lait.  The caramel ice cream had these little salt chips in it that provided just the right hint of complexity to cut into the sweet ice cream.  Cake and ice cream...  there's a reason why they've been paired together for generations.  

Perfect way to end the evening.  Kathy Hatfield is a dessert-making marvel.  

(And then I got a parking ticket when I got back to my car, but we won't talk about that.  WTF is with me and tickets?)
The portions were on the small side for a tasting menu, which actually worked out pretty well.  The last time I did a tasting menu I was full by the fourth course and didn't really enjoy the remaining dishes.  With the smaller portions, I could eat everything and didn't feel uncomfortably stuffed when it was all said and done.  

The staff was very attentive and competent.  They brought out the dishes at a rapid pace - if memory recalls correctly, we were there for less than two hours.  Again, the last time I did a tasting menu, I was there for nearly twice that amount.  You start to get uncomfortable sitting in the chairs and are just waiting for the darn thing to be over.  Not this time!

So many places around here place the setting and decor over the food. Hatfield's has it straight. Two thumbs up.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Prop 8 action

Here's an email that I got from Geoff Kors, Executive Director of Equality California :

The proponents of Prop 8 usurped the role of the Legislature by putting the right for same-sex couples to marry directly on the ballot.

Two Equality California-sponsored resolutions introduced today will make it official state policy, when they are approved by the Legislature, that Prop 8 should be overturned.

Write your legislators now to urge them to support the invalidation of Prop 8 and vote for Leno's Senate Resolution 7 and Ammiano's Assembly Resolution (number to be assigned).

Prop 8 eliminates the fundamental right to marry and allows a slim majority to take away the equal protections of a minority, which violates one of the founding principles of our Constitution. The resolutions state the measure should have been approved by a two-thirds vote in the Legislature before going to voters.

Urge your representatives to support these resolutions. If you are registered with EQCA’s Action Center, reply to this email. Or register today at www.eqca.org/actioncenter.

On December 19, proponents of Prop 8 will file their briefs with the California Supreme Court. So, ask everyone you know to write their representative by going to www.eqca.org/actioncenter by December 19.

EQCA will do its part to make sure we have broad support for these resolutions.

But we need you to do yours. Email your representatives now at www.eqca.org/actioncenter and ask your friends and family join you.

California lawmakers need to hear from you—their constituents—that our state should be a state of hope, prosperity and equality for all.
This was super easy to do and went out a whole list of folks.  You could add a personalized message or just go with the standard message.  

Monday, December 1, 2008

Eating meat

Yesterday Mr. Insomniac and I traveled to the far off location of Tustin for some all you can eat Korean barbeque with some of his college buddies - Grillmaster and CEO.

I had been craving some marinated short ribs for a while and a couple of weeks ago, we went to this place in Korean town that was dark, dank, and smoky.  I didn't take many pictures but here's one of our meal cooking with the assorted side dishes.  It was good, but rather pricy.  And the ventillation system was pretty much non-existent.  We spent most of the evening being bathed in smoky meat air.  On the plus side, doggy Insomniac was especially attentive when we got home as we probably smelled delicious.

So after that place, arriving at Seoul Garden BBQ Buffet was a breath of fresh air - literally.

Lots of tile, but well lit.  

So the way this place works is that you grab your assorted side dishes (rice, kim chi, pickled cucumbers and garlic cloves, bean sprouts, seaweed salad, scallions, jalapenos, etc.) from one buffet table.  Then you use a SEPARATE dish and load up on raw meat from another buffet table.  This was the part that was a little ick.  I like meat as much as the next bloke, but to see mounds of raw flesh swimming in a bloody marinade and sitting out in the open gave me pause.  But I shook it off and starting loading up my plate.

They have a wide assortment of proteins available - beef, poulty, pork, tofu, and seafood.  

And more adventurous fare for folks interested in crossing some items off the Omnivore's Hundred checklist.  

I figured, why not? and heaped a slice of beef tongue and beef heart on my plate for grilling.  I felt very Brave Heart.  (And it wasn't until digging up that Omnivore Hundred link that I realized that tongue and heart weren't on the list.  But I like the idea of trying new things... so it's all good.  Neither was bone marrow guts which would have been definitely an example of Trying New Things but I was too much of a chicken.)

Grillmaster did what he does best and deftly placed the short ribs on the grill and bordered the meat with some scallions, onions, and mussels.  After a few quick tosses of the tongs, they were done - perfectly charred and deliciously tender.  

Grillmaster and CEO looked at me in disgust and said that I was trying to "out Asian" them when I threw my tongue and heart on the grill.  But the joke was on them as I can say that the tongue was pretty tasty - it tasted like meat with a delicate flavor - and the heart tasted pretty good too.  Rich, gamey, flavorful - kind of like gizzards.  Chewy, but not annoyingly so.

I would have placed a picture of the grilling action and the completed meal here, but my iphone is currently at home somewhere.  Sad face.  Enjoy the picture of the Beef Marrow Guts.