Monday, February 27, 2012

Mixed Metaphor: The Silver Lining of Kitchen Nightmares

We've all experienced something like the following. You invite someone over, hoping to impress that person with a tasty meal. You plan, shop, and seem to have all your ducks in a row. Preparation begins and Murphy's Law rears its duck-like head: the vegetables are inexplicably infected with a mysterious mold visible only from the inside, the relevant piece of cookware has been rendered useless by all those years of careless abuse (remember: never use metal on non-stick surfaces and don't let them get too hot!). It is enough to make one resign oneself to lonely one-pot meals prepared in a Crockpot. However, there can be a silver lining to such so-called "disasters." Assuming your guest is a human being and not Gordon Ramsay such mishaps can be no less romantic than a dinner gone off without a hitch. In fact, in the grand scheme of things this is a low-stakes crisis (see previous Chef Ramsay link for caveat). It can be fun working through such episodes, and a bumpy start need not be an inauspicious sign vis-a-vis the rest of the night. A little improvising, perhaps a little assistance, and your meal can still turn out tasty. More importantly: having shared such an experience can make for an even more delightful evening and fond memories. So, don't let one apparent disaster scare you out of the kitchen. Make lemonade from these lemons (or panang chicken, as the case may be), and savor the results including the intangible ones.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Summer 2012

Why is it that airfare from the US to Tbilisi is around 1,300 in early-May to early-June, but when I basically check for the same ticket a month later, airfare jumps by nearly $1000? This is disconcerting. One way not to encourage tourism is to tack $700 in airport taxes and fees on to each ticket.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Back?

Following a positive example, I have elected to deactivate my Facebook account. No, I have no profound reason for this, and no it wasn't internet drama that pushed me to amputate one of my digital limbs. I found myself asking myself "why do I have this [FB]?" too often. Finally, I practiced what I preach every semester in my Intro to Logic class and I thought seriously about the expected utility of having Facebook versus not having it, and not having it clearly won. I've no specific beef with social networking (after all, this blog is one form of that), but if you don't know why you've elected to bring some influence into your life, then chances are you don't need it and you may very well be better off without it. This is an experiment. I may decided to reactivate, but a week on the wagon and I've yet to be tempted. I am hoping that my productivity will go up as I have plugged one significant time-sink, and perhaps I will become more focused on managing my own business instead of being so concerned with so-and-so's latest status update and additions to one's photo album.

Life is good these days, relatively speaking. Yes, reading the news is soul-crushing, and following the GOP race makes me angry for yet unactualized possibilities, but taking the liberty to be a little self-consumed and evaluate life within my own sphere of influence, I can say that I'm currently content. Between achieving some level of security with my job and the introduction of new positive influences, the outlook is guardedly optimistic. Tyson and I may end up returning to Georgia together after all (though this may come at the cost of another summer with my summer teaching job). This was yesterday's big news. As with every summer, we are waiting to see what happens with his summer funding/opportunities and it may yet not work out (as it typically does not), in which case this cowboy may go it alone in that most wild of places, the Caucasus.

Spring is not far, which means more unethical grilling. For now I post a picture of my feast last night: kimchi fried rice with mushrooms served between caramelized Brussels sprouts and a beaten, fried egg.


Monday, February 22, 2010

food in Pensacola

I just thought I'd rattle off some Pensacola dining advice.

Pizza

Ozone has half priced pies on Mondays. They aren't bad. The crust leaves something to be desired, so I recommend specifying thin crust; it is better.

Hopjacks has some of the most interesting pizzas in town. They are pricey, but worth it. I recommend the roasted duck pie. Pizzas at Hopjacks are better than pizzas at Ozone, but if you're on a budget or you just want a good pie and good atmosphere, hit up Ozone. the atmosphere at Hopjacks sucks.

Burger

I have not eaten at the infamous Blue Dot. It is on my agenda. However, the best burgers I have had locally are at McGuire's. They grind their own beef, which means that rare burgers are (as far as I'm concerned) a safe option.

The Pensacola burger crawl ranked the Kobe beef burger at Bonefish highly, but I disagree.

McGuire's.

Jack's Diner in East Hill is terrible. Wait, may be it is called Jimmy's Drive In. Whatever it is called, it sucks. So does the Times Grill up on 9 Mile rd.

McGuire's

Moving onto sushi

In order: Ichiban, followed distantly by Fish House, Dharma Blue and then Horizen. I recommend the sashimi platter at Ichiban. I would not bother getting sushi at the other three places. I have not tried all of the sushi places here. I have ranked those I have tried.

"Fine" Dining

There are no fine dining establishments in Pensacola. Jackson's is mentioned as a fine dining restaurant, but it is anything but. What it lacks in quality, it makes up for in stuffiness. You get all the attitude of a NY fine dining establishment stuck in the 80's, but none of the quality. The service is terrible and the food is mediocre. The cocktails are good though.

The Fish House, owned by the same people as Jackson's, also thinks of itself as fine dining. It is pricey, but it is not fine dining. Dishes are uninspired and overpriced, as at Jackson's.

The Global Grill is OK, but is not fine dining. OK, may be it is fine dining for this area, but it is neither innovative nor particularly tasty. It isn't bad, and probably it is a great place for a date, but I just don't really dig on tapas. It strikes me as a way to charge too much for too little. I did, however, enjoy the turtle soup and frog legs. It is a good place for reptiles.

Oysters

The Marina Oyster Barn off of Cervantes is the only place I'd go. Prices are good, atmosphere is perfect, laid back, and family-friendly. I love this place.

Places to Avoid

Taste of India: yes, it is "exotic" for NW Florida, but it is the worst Indian food I've ever had.
Cactus Flower: ties to be upscale Mexican, but I don't think they even make their own salsa.
Seville Diner: a place with much potential, but basically it is a Waffle House without all the yellow

Really the best place to eat locally is at my house. Feel free to stop by.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Identity

Today I faced a trial I've been dreading for at least the past week: getting my UWF parking pass and ID card. Mind you, at Bucknell this was an extremely painless process. One might even say it was pleasant. However, I suspected that at a school three times the size of Bucknell, there would be lines and issues. My suspicion was vindicated when on Friday of last week I inquired about the process and was subsequently redirected to the appropriate office where there was quite the line of students. I opted to wait until Monday (today).

For various reasons, none of which really worth mentioning, I did not sleep last night, or I slept very little. My alarm went off at six a.m. signaling me to shower, drink coffee, and face UWF bureaucracy. I wanted to be there prior to the offices opening at eight a.m. so as to avoid a line. Of course I did not manage to avoid the line to get my parking pass, but it was minimal. I had no problems getting the pass. The next stop is the ID center. I walk in and the lady expects a receipt showing that I paid the $10 ID fee to the parking pass lady. I show her the receipt from the parking pass lady and she says it will not do. I respond by informing her that I'm faculty and, therefore, do not need to pay for my ID. Here is where the story gets interesting. She asks me how she's supposed to know I'm faculty and if she's expected to simply take my word for it. After all, she points out, I'm wearing a backpack. She tells me to get a note from my supervisor attesting to my status. I tell her that I will not do that and that she can take as proof that I'm faculty the fact that I'm holding the faculty parking pass I just purchased without incident. Again she is incredulous. I instruct her to run my ID number (printed on my parking pass receipt). This request is met with a deep sigh (mind you, no one else was in this office, so it wasn't like she was dealing with a horde of ID-hungry students). Coldly, she tells me to look at the camera, 1-2-3, and my picture is taken for the ID. Transaction over. On one hand, I was irritated with this woman who doubted that I was faculty, in the face of credible evidence, simply because I was wearing a backpack, and I was shocked by her cold demeanor; on the other hand, however, I was happy to have a business transaction with someone who treated me like shit, didn't call me 'hon', and didn't inquire about my life story ("what brangs ya' down here?, etc."). It was like a little taste of the northeast way down here in the deep south.

I'm looking forward to my appointment at the DMV a week from today.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Martyrs

If you are looking for a good horror flick, replete with gore, psychological torment (for both the viewer and the characters), and an uncompromising assault on your senses, see Martyrs. Even the final credits are haunting. I won't say much about this film as doing so could possibly ruin the ample payoff of viewing it. Despite the fact that the film is at times nearly unwatchable for its brutality, this is not a piece of torture porn. Or if it is, it is much smarter than its torture porn kin such as l' interieur, Hostel, Saw, and The Passion of the Christ. Because the violence is essential to the story and is presented in a way that is thereto serviceable, I am reluctant to classify Martyrs as "torture porn," a genre marked by its egregious depictions of violence for its own sake. Martyrs, unlike most modern horror, is hardly "easy watching." For example, unlike movies such as Hostel, you don't sit down with a beer and expect to be entertained by gratuitous gore and cheap frights. Viewing Martyrs is a different kind of experience; it is a personal experience. You will not watch it with the detachment with which you watch 28 Days Later or Cloverfield (though both of those are great films). You will not laugh, and at times you may forget to breathe or be afraid to do so. At the risk of inadvertently dissuading potential viewers, I will liken the experience of watching Martyrs to that of watching Requiem for a Dream (or may be The Descent) in terms of the film's ability to draw you into the story. It will leave you shaken, disturbed, and wondering what you did to make the director punish you so mercilessly.

Martyrs is splendidly acted and written. The soundtrack provides the perfect sonic canvass against which this heartbreaking story of abuse and obsession takes place. The color palette is subdued and sterile, which helps bring this feature to life.
Again, I leave this review brief so that you may discover the richness of this story for yourself. Do not read the Wikipedia entry on this movie as it is full of spoilers. However you may safely watch any of the official trailers, which are available on Youtube.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I hate being wrong

Typically, I don't mind revising my beliefs when confronted with recalcitrant data. This is what any intellectually respectable robot would do. However, some revisions are more fundamental than others, and today I had a fairly earth-shattering revelation. Upon the suggestion of a colleague, I gave the new Metallica album, "Death Magnetic," a listen. I wrote off Metallica in 1992 when the "Black Album" came out and they lost their edge, going pop under the tutelage of producer Bob Rock. Bob made them superstars, making their music accessible to the redneck masses. A series of shitty albums followed. Some contended that "St. Anger," the album before "Death Magnetic," was a return to their roots. No. It was heavier than the pop crap on Load or Reload, but it was unfocused and stupid. "Death Magnetic" is not a return to the greatness of Master of "Puppets" or "...And Justice for All," but it is a return to greatness. This is an album to be proud of. It is not overproduced like the "Black Album" (and its immediate successors), and the song writing has improved immensely. What is similar to "Justice" and "Puppets" is the intelligent orchestration and speed. Best of all, Hetfield has stopped trying to sing, at least on some (the better of the) tracks. He has gone back to doing what he does best: minimally tonal growling. There are still losers on this album. "All Nightmare Long" sucks. "Cyanide" sucks. But that's ok, so did "Escape" (Ride the Lightning) and "The Thing that Should not Be" (Master of Puppets) and "Eye of the Beholder" (...And Justice for All). But at least these two shitty songs on DM suck only because of their lyrics; the music is solid. I'm not going to go on and on as I do about t.A.T.u since Metallica is no t.A.T.u., but if you've lost hope that Metallica will ever be anything more than an embarrassment to their past, check out "Death Magnetic." In the words of Rolling Stone reviewer Brian Hiatt:

"Death Magnetic is the musical equivalent of Russia's invasion of Georgia — a sudden act of aggression from a sleeping giant."

Metallica, you proved me wrong.