Italia! 30 days and counting…

It looks like the theme for June will be food and vacation planning. All fun and games, right? Sheesh. I don’t think so! It’s only the 2nd and my tongue’s dragging on the ground. Okay, so not exactly, but still.

On the vacation front…
I finally found Fattoria Settemerli — the perfect farmhouse (lah-tee-damn-dah) about 15 minutes outside of Firenze. Now, being one who will always remember that episode of I Love Lucy when the four friends were headed to California and stopped at that fleabag motel, you know, where Ethel had to tie Fred to the bed with the sagging mattress? And the train. The train…Bwhahahahaha! Cheese sandwich? Not ringing any bells?

Nevermind.

Like I said. The perfect farmhouse. There’s a bus stop nearby, and yes, I absolutely Google mapped it to make sure AND checked the bus lines and wasn’t THAT fun. But I did read a few reviews that mentioned something about having to venture up a hill with luggage and wheels bumping over the rocks in the road, so we may be in for quite the adventure. The MoH says that’s the point, so no problem. I booked it.

But my exhilaration lasted about two seconds because the next step in my planning is figuring out how to get from Rome to Naples to Sorrento to Naples to Florence to Rome. We’re taking the train for the most part, but do you have any idea just how many trains there are? It’s amazing. Erm…and so is the cost. But it became a no brainer when I read in one resource after another that road traffic is horrible, gasoline is approaching $10/gallon, and that at least in Naples, no one pays attention to red lights or stop signs. Suggestions mention needing to “Do what the locals do, and make eye-contact with the drivers while you cross.” Now that sounds exciting, yes?

Besides, without the hassle of a rental car large enough to fit the four of us and our luggage, the MoH will actually get to see the countryside with no white-knuckle driving responsibilities this time. Sure, it will be somewhat blurry at about 180mph, but hey!

And for those of you still scratching your heads about why I’m organizing this instead of using a booking agency: A) I’m a glutton for punishment; B) It’s insanely fun; C) I’m a complete control freak about things like this; D) I missed my calling and really wanted to be a Travel Agent instead of a teacher; E) I have absolutely nothing to do with my time and totally miss planning every moment of adolescents’ literate lives 70 hours a week.

If you chose “C” then you are correct, win the Maserati, and can collect your winnings in your dreams. Don’t forget to listen to the engine before you go, because if you’re like me, that’s the closest you’ll ever get to a Maserati, right? But thanks for playing.

On the food front…

I’m the hostess with the mostest for the monthly cyber bake I’ve been participating in for over year now. It’s top secret, so I can’t say what we’ll flood the web with at the end of this month, but part of my responsibilities as co-host are to monitor the forum for the other bakers who may have questions. Um. They have lots?

And you remember that there are nearly 1,000 participants, right?

Thankfully, there are people far more knowlegeable than myself in this group, and they chime in with suggestions and direction, too. It’s quite a bit of fun.

And to get warmed up for our trip, I’m digging into regional Italian. I figured what the heck. I can go to Italy and have a decent source of comparison in my head when I cozy up to a plate of Fritto Misto di Mare or Saltimboca alla Romana. It has to be good, doesn’t it? A die-hard foodie cannot go to Italy and come home disappointed, can she?

On the home front?

My mom is really on the ball. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear her name was Cinderella. She cleans all day. Vacuums, sweeps, waters flowers, does laundry, folds it and puts it away. Cleans cat boxes. Cleans garage refrigerators that should be donated to science, or nuked. I know. You’re wondering if you can get that service. But try and tell her not to. It doesn’t work. She’s downstairs right now finishing dishes I left in the sink last night. This is not a crime in Paradise unless you make it one. Leaving dishes in the sink, not having your mother do them. Or preventing her. We have this problem with never quite being able to fit the dishes into the dishwasher because it fills all day, then only half the dinner dishes go into it. And I suppose I could really wax on about this particular dilemma, but I have trip planning to do.

Museum reservations to make so that we can bypass long lines was numero uno on my list today, but phones ring oddly in Italy. I can’t tell if it’s ringing and ringing, or busy.

Restaurants off the beaten path to find so I can truly say we enjoyed something special while we’re there. This is challenging, but there are some really good Italian blogs with good leads…

Start on our itinerary. I make a small binder for the MoH when we go on vacation so he can speed read through everything while he’s on the plane. It has reservation papers and vouchers, maps, and print outs of possibilities for all kinds of things. He likes it.

Assign homework. The menfolk are getting a subject to bone up on so they can be the expert when we’re standing in front of yet another Renaissance painting, the assigned person can talk about more than our interpretation of it.

That’s enough for a Monday, I think.

Isn’t it?

You’ll be soooooo sick of this whole Italy thing by the time I’m finished.

Ciao, bella. Gracie per la chiamata. Abbia un giorno piacevole.

Food, Art, and Heat in Paradise.

How was your weekend? Lovely and everything you dreamed of? I certainly hope so — especially if you are one to have weekends off. I’ve lived in both worlds: working nights with never a weekend day off, and working the daily grind with every weekend off — that is if you consider having to plan lessons and grade umpteen gazillion papers down time. Um, no.

So what did we do this weekend? Shucks. I thought you’d never ask.

Continue reading “Food, Art, and Heat in Paradise.”

Brain Malarkey Cooked for Us

Screw the memes I have to do. (I really WILL do them. I promise. And my fingers are NOT crossed behind my back.)

But the MoH and I had the perfect recipe for a Monday. We went to our local cook’s haven, Great News in Pacific Beach and spent the evening with Brian Malarkey.

What?

You don’t know who Brian Malarkey is? Feh. Where have you been? He was one of the finalists on Top Chef this year, and the recipient of Chef of the Year from the San Diego Restaurant Association. Of course he should have won Top Chef, but that’s beside the point. WE got to enjoy his magnetic personality, sense of humor, and great cuisine tonight. Here. In Paradise. It was so worth it. IMG_5180.JPG

The sky was clear, the air clean, and the Pacific stretched as far as the eye could see. That orange glow was shimmering just above the deep blue horizon. Gorgeous. But a tad cool. Okay, so about 50 degrees F.

But I forgot my camera. So how convenient that we were an HOUR early and I could whiz home to get it and then slide into my seat and look forward to a couple of glasses (well…three if you count the one the MoH didn’t quite finish) of Two Buck Chuck. And the MoH says after the class, “That was pretty good…what was it?” “Koolaide,” I replied, “and you’ll be sorry in the morning.”  The MoH does not imbibe.

IMG_5172.JPG The menu for this cooking class was “Asian Inspired Malarkey.” Brian is the executive chef at The Oceanaire here in San Diego. Of course, we seemed to be the only people in the audience who hadn’t eaten there, but that’s because we’re busy paying taxes. We love to eat out, but only do so on special occasions during the year. Actually, we thought we’d enjoy The Oceanaire before this Monday’s class, but time has gotten away from us lately. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to improve our record in that department, getting out to try local food more than we do. I know. Quite the novel concept. Where would San Francisco be without all those Food Bloggers sampling local faire? S.O.L.

Ahem.

The menu Brian and his right hand man prepared for the 50+ group this evening was lovely:

Kumamoto Oysters on the Half Shell with an Asian Inspired Mignonette Kumamoto Oysters on the Half Shell with an Asian Inspired Mignonette

Sesame Crusted Big Eye Tuna with Ocean Salad and Micro Wasabi Sesame Crusted Big Eye Tuna with Ocean Salad and Micro Wasabi

Shiitake Mushroom and Ginger Soup with Bean Sprouts and Cilantro Shiitake Mushroom and Ginger Soup with Bean Sprouts and Cilantro

Japanese 7 Spice Petite Filet Mignon with Ginger Butter Japanese 7 Spice Petite Filet Mignon with Ginger Butter

Green Tea Ice Cream (from a local vendor whose name I regrettably did not get)

Y.U.M. Truly. We’d never had oysters before. Clams, yes. Mussels, yes. But oysters? Um. Nope. So this was big. And I appreciated what Brian had to say about them because the information helps when you slurp something live into your mouth and do notice the slightly briny “Mermaid’s Kiss” with a hint of cilantro as you swallow the creature and smile.

I did not get a stripe on my arm for this accomplishment, but I FEEL good. DAH-duh-DAH-duh-DAH-duh-DAH.

The Ahi Tuna? Oh. My. Sesame seeds all ’round and seared and then sliced and served with a compound butter. Goodness. I love Ahi this way. But what really made it was the “ocean” salad we waited for while Brain took questions (mostly from the MoH) about his Top Chef experience. The seaweed, thinly sliced and plated under the ahi was perfect. Fresh . Crunchy. Amazing. Totally. I have seared ahi with sesame seeds, but would never have thought to have the seaweed. Who knew? Delicious. It has to be THE reason why I’m a morsel and not a lithe waif. *Make a note to strike the Barefoot Contessa like I didn’t already know this.* Just kidding, Ina. Could you send me a pound of buttah, please?

IMG_5174.JPG And Brian’s Top Chef experience details were interesting, too: He didn’t get to speak to his wife for FIVE weeks. They take away your wallet, your keys, your cell — everything. And then, if I’m getting this correctly, they send frequent letters reminding you of your obligation to remain silent on the outcome of the show. With respect to the filming, each day, there’s either a quick challenge, or a main preparation. In Brian’s opinion, the only quick challenge that mattered was the one that took place at the French Culinary Academy (I’m sure I’ve gotten this incorrect). And speaking of culinary academies in general, in his opinion, those interested in his line of work would be better served volunteering for a few hard days with a chef, then signing on to work in that kitchen (if you passed the chef’s scrutiny) and learning from the ground up. You’d earn money as you were learning, as opposed to paying nearly 50K going to an academy. Sounds good to me. Maybe in my next life since I’ve essentially learned by trial and error, reading, by example, and anything else that counts for the last 40 years or so.

Other points of interest in the evening: Brian recommended many local places to find great ingredients, and fresh food. I did know of a few, but a couple I can’t wait to schlep to are San Diego Coffee, Tea, and Spice which concocts the spice mixtures Brian used, and Specialty Produce which is where the chefs in San Diego get their goods. Now how could I have NOT known about this? Unbelievable. I’m there this coming Saturday.

News at Eleven.

Anyway…it was a lovely evening. The worst part about it was the ending, and finding out that it was still Monday, instead of Friday, which would have been perfect.

An early birthday present for the MoH with more to come later in the week.

What’s up with these December babies, anyway?

Gluttons.
IMG_5182.JPG

The End of NaBloPoMo: The Heidi Chronicles

So I’m officially a NaBloPoMo failure. I figured I would be when I never realized in the beginning that Thanksgiving was actually in November…whatever. But I was rolling along, and then when Wednesday hit and I was up until after midnight (looking longingly at the clock watching that minute hand creeping ever closer to the magic hour which would cast me into the ranks of blogging quitters and thinking that I could run upstairs and just squeeze out a fake post to keep in the game….)

But NO.

I let my faithful followers down. My NaBloPoMo compatriots. *heavy sigh*

I was too tired. I was whipped. I was everything but perky in the waning hours of the day, sitting in my chair, enjoying the wafting scent of spiced candles and final bottle glass of wine before retiring for the night. Staring at a chic flick I’ve seen a million times so I wouldn’t dream of scanning lists of ingredients in recipes, and filling small white porcelain dishes for mise en place or whatever the heck that’s called. Watching the time evaporate, ending my quest for NaBloPoMo fame.

It just wouldn’t be a class act to slam out a crappy post at 11:57pm.

But the dinner tables (yes, that’s an “s” on the end of tables) were set, the flowers arranged and the candles organized just so. The old linen napkins were lightly starched and softly folded.

The  Primo Seats

The  Not so Primo Seats

Nary a cat yack stain was visible. Well, maybe one because Freshness, Her Royal Butterballness Barf-o-rama on wheels in disguise did summarily regurgitate her afternoon snack upon my freshly cleaned carpet. Just. Once. To let me know she was still in control of my destiny.

Dumb ass cat. Lovely pet that she is.

Blackness & Presh-Ass, The Yack Star

But I digress.

We fell into bed for a night of tumultous passion exhausted sleep (we, because the MoH seriously pitches in during the holidays, lovely man unit that he is) with windows open (yes, in Paradise, we’ve still not shut our windows for the winter) and covers nicely fluffed.

Paradise:  Overcast, but warm.

Ready to begin again at seven-freaking-ay-em the next day.

But there was plenty of bubbly on hand throughout the day for mimosas and champagne cocktails, or just a plain glass o’ bubbly.

Thank. Goodness.

And thank Mr. and Mrs. Diestel who grow turkeys somewhere in the Sierra Nevadas for our lovely bird whom I immediately named Heidi when I saw her cozied up in that little box all tricked out with handles.

Heidi the Turkey

She performed well on the day most revered by this foodie — the super bowl of Food.

Oh. My.

If there was ever a question that a bird should be ordered by phone ahead of time, fresh-not-frozen, heavily discounted because your son works there WOOT!, artfully brined, and lovingly basted each half hour by the MoH, this was it.

Simply droolworthy.

And the guests were jolly, filled to the gills with the tasty fare.

The highlight of the evening was the iChat session with family in VA which broke into a bawdy session of, well, you’d have to know my family to understand. Suffice it to say that we all seem to have a fixation with the posterior portion of the human anatomy and it’s only a matter of time before a parade of buttocks fill the screen. I do think it must have something to do with not having a proper number of opportunities to share on Show ‘n’ Tell day in kindergarten. Thank goodness for the Internet and family members who are only a sign-in away. We aren’t for the faint of heart.

The VA iChat Visitors

They sort of resemble that Chumbawumba album cover, don’t they?

But the sink backed up, we ran out of counterspace, and I believe there was not a dish in my kitchen left unused. The stacks of dishes and pots, bowls and platters, wine glasses and utensils riveled Dr. Seuss’ buildings in Whoville.

But I survived.

Barely.

Sorry I haven’t been by to visit…I have serious catching up to do, and tagging to unleash on unsuspecting neighbors in Bloggsville. Be warned.

Life is grand, isn’t it?

Dear ustream.tv Gurus…

November 19, 2007

Dear Whomever thought of ustream.tv:

What a completely cool idea. Yesterday I had so much fun being on “TV” while I was working in my kitchen. Who knew? Does this mean I’m a closet Giada or budding Rachael? A potential Bobby or possible Mario? If you’re even thinking of swallowing this, pigs are circling over your head as we speak. But still.

ustream.tv broadcast

Setting up a broadcast on ustream.tv was the means to an end. I have quite a few cyber baking buddies, and because we’d planned to cook together yesterday (quite the feat considering I’m on the Left Coast, a couple are in the Midwest and East Coast, and one lives in Argentina. And the plan was to have used Yahoo for instant messaging.

Right.

And I have swamp land in Florida. For sale.

I won’t go into the sordid details of why this never actually happened other than to say that I, using the web version and in Beta, somehow did not fit in. So rather than collecting my baking pans and calling it a day, logged on to ustream.tv and launched my show, “Kelly Cooks.” I’m not there right now because my tongue’s still hanging to my knees after yesterday. Jeez.

It was completely hilarious. And not unlike blabbing with friends or family sitting on the other side of the bar while I cook at a party. In fact it felt exactly the same.

Of course there was no clevage, or giant sets of teeth, no Eee-Vee-Ohh-Ohh. In fact, sometimes, there was no food, or no face. And never both at the same time. The camera is at the top of my screen so making it point in a particular direction isn’t an art. Yanno? I don’t exactly live in a television studio, and that wasn’t the purpose of the broadcast anyway. It was to chat with friends while I cooked, remember?

And I got to chat with Helen of Tartlette which is the most amazing dessert blog you’ve ever seen. And Jerry of Cooking By the Seat of My Pants, who has several blogs (I don’t know how he does it…) and is also caught in the throes of organizing his place like I am. Jerry’s trying to get me to cook by the seat of my pants, too. And he’s encouraging me to drink wine while I’m doing this. This reminds me a bit of running with scissors, but I can, and do. Frequently. But I was on tv, yanno? You have to maintain some degree of hoity-toityness, right? And let’s see, who else? Breadchick of The Sour Dough and Ben of What’s Cooking?. And if I remember correctly, Sara of I Like to Cook. Of course practically my whole fam damily in Virginia, because I called them and asked if they wanted to see me make an ass out of myself on tv and of course they said yes and could they have a front row seat. So they hunkered on down for the duration on several computers. And it was quite the duration. Nary a cyber tomato hit me. Imagine that! Rotten pitchers, that audience of about…oh….I’d say about 10 whole people. Actually, the stats say there were 326 drive bys views.

So what did I make? Cinnamon rolls. Homemade pasta with roasted peppers and herbed goat’s cheese. I’m completely pooped. Totally. Multitasking has been taken to a new level. It was hilarious trying to remember what I was doing while trying to read the questions and comments written the the chatbox. But it wasn’t too bad. At least I didn’t pulverize the English language like Dub-Yah does…did? Does he still do that? Whatever.

A hot bubble bath smelling somewhere between a fig and a grapefruit, a novel, candles (to see my book because the light’s not great) and more wine were seriously in order after all was said and done. Ahh….such is the life of a web tv drone star.

So thanks, ustream.tv gurus. I had a blast meeting new people as well. I’ll have to be a bit more organized if I do this again, but I don’t know how. Plus, I had to carry my beloved Mac down to the kitchen, so that was an annoyance to others in the house, even thought they didn’t actually complain. I would have. And my niece said I should have some kind of sign that states what I was cooking so each time someone new entered the chatroom I didn’t have to repeat what I already said.

Perhaps a sign that hangs around my neck? A chalkboard. Park someone with a hook off camera for dragging me off screen when things get truly pathetic, lapsing into, “A guy walks into a bar with a monkey…” while I’m whipping egg whites. Yes, like that.

I’ll let you know when I do it again. Heck, I’ll even give you advance warning so you can make sure you’re not anywhere near a computer. Bwhahahahaha!

Sincerely,

Me

p.s. One kind viewer/chatter said that there is also something called stickcam which allows the viewers to be heard and seen as well. I’m going to check that out. And Yahoo? Well…feh.

Kelly Cooks

Well, after a ridiculous morning trying to set up an instant message conference with some baking buddies and completely failing (yahoo and apple most likely have a sheriff out looking for me considering the number of reports I filed for the errors and unexpected quits and failures to launch downloaded software…) I’m now broadcasting.

So if you’re completely bored today, or are not a football fan, or if your team is losing and you’re in complete despair.

Drop on by.

I’m making something in the kitchen. But don’t expect me to explain anything. That would be too much like walking and chewing gum at the same time…

And give me some feedback about this ustream.tv business. How does it work and all. Yanno?

What day in NaBloPoMo are we?

Kelly Cook

Go ahead. Click it and see…

Writing until the cows come home

November 10, 2007

Dear NaBloPoMo,

My tongue’s not quite hanging to the ground yet with daily blogging, because I’ve missed very few days since I began last March. I do have the ability to write my way around any situation while standing on my head and singing Yankee Doodle. Or something like that. But I have a tendency to not write both days in the weekend because my house really does need to be cleaned occasionally.

The other reason I may not write on the weekend is because of my food blog. It takes some time, and I enjoy spending time there with other foodies. And I fear that I neglect that world far too much compared to this one. And foodies are such a lovely bunch of people. I truly enjoy them.

So today, I’m deferring to said foodie haven Sass & Veracity for today’s qualifying post. Even though this actually counts as a post.

Besides, my post there is for a very worthy cause.

And thanks to Mike at Port 16 for the idea.

Have a lovely Saturday!

Me.