Sunday, November 29, 2009

Foodie Detour: Burgers

I don't eat hamburgers all that often due to my fondness of happy cows combined with my somewhat reasonable fear of E coli, but a couple of months ago, I chowed on burgers twice in one week, both at new Ithaca restaurants. For a comparison, let the pictures do the talking:

Five Guys Burgers and Fries has french fries on their side, and lots of them. I'm sure the Five Guys are Nice Guys, and the extra toppings are free, but mine tasted an awful lot like a McDonald's hamburger. Total cost for a burger and fries: about $7

Northstar House cooked my fresh, local burger to order, pink and juicy in the middle. It was big and tasty, and I'm a sucker for local meat, because worse than eating a happy cow is eating an unhappy cow. The handcut fries were a generous serving. For those who prefer their cows alive, the black bean burger also rocked. Total cost for a burger and fries: $10. Add in a a microbrew for an additional $5.

You can guess where I'll probably go back to. And where I probably won't. Moooooooo.

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My mother said it would just be the four of us. Usually on Thanksgiving, Leah and I end up at Leah’s parents’ house. Or we end up staying home and Leah makes turkey meatballs and mashes every type of root vegetable she can locate at Wegmans. This year, I wanted to spend Thanksgiving with my parents for the first time in about ten years.

I asked Leah if she was interested in joining me. “Who’s going to be there?” she asked tentatively. Leah did not like holidays, and she did not like people, which meant she only attended events where Vicodin was on the menu. My parents served wine, port and whiskey which she deemed acceptable substitutes.

Creating holiday traditions with Leah is like trying to convince a seven-year-old boy to take a bath. Okay, I have no idea what it is like to convince a kid to bathe. But I do know what it is like to try to talk my girlfriend into doing something festive that she thinks is fundamentally stupid. But with some pushy coaxing, she finally tries whatever activity I want, like carving a pumpkin or decorating a Christmas tree, and in the end she loves it. The next year we start all over again with her grumpy refusal to partake in celebrations without a kick in the ass.

On Thanksgiving day this year, an hour or two into wine-inspired conversation with my parents, the doorbell rang.

“Well, that’s a lot of ice cream for five of us,” my mom said, taking their friend Jim’s grocery bag. On cue, the phone rang. Judy had decided to come early with her husband and two young boys to have dinner at my parents instead of at her in-laws. The turkey was taking too long and the boys were getting hungry. Just the four of us was morphing into just the nine of us. I refilled Leah’s wine glass.

A few minutes later, I was sipping wine in the kitchen with my sister as her kids ran around. “I loved your memoir essays,” she said to me. “Thanks for sending them. I like your creative take on things, especially that rum incident when you were fourteen. You know, everyone remembers things differently. And you were drunk.”

My mom chimed in. “And you get to use creative license and make up stuff, since it’s your memoir.”

I was pleasantly surprised that they supported my “creative take” when it included things they had said and done, but their support also made me uneasy, because, well, I thought the memory was fact when I wrote it. I prodded my sister to share her version of the evening.

Judy recalled that she did not say she was going to tell my parents I was drunk on the night she picked me up at the roller skating rink. She claimed she never told them, that she said to me that night in the car as I threw up into a Styrofoam cup, “I’m not going to tell them, you are.”

I asked my mother how she found out. “Your sister had us paged at the movie theater,” she said. “We came home and she asked us to wait until morning to confront you. She was very protective over you.”

My sister? Protective? “I thought you wanted to see me get in trouble,” I said to Judy. “You were so competitive.”

“I was not competitive,” Judy said.

“Yes, you were,” I said.

“No, YOU were.”

“But you told me how competitive you felt in high school.”

“No, you told me YOU were competitive,” she said. “I never felt competitive. That’s so funny you remember it that way,”

“You’re kidding, right?” I said. I turned to my mother who was stirring the gravy and asked if she had ungrounded me early because she was worried about my mental health, which was what I had assumed because I was so miserable after I got caught.

She said no, that she and my father did talk to me that night while I was drunk, a conversation I have no recollection of, and in the heat of the moment they grounded me for a month “because that’s the kind of thing you do when you’re mad." They recognized later that two weeks would be sufficient and reasonable for the offense.

“What about the rum cake?” I asked my mom. Suffering from a tortuous hangover and the dry heaves, I had to serve rum cake at the church rectory the day after my drunken escapade. “Did you call the cook and tell her to make rum cake?”

That, my mother laughed, was divine intervention.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pumpkin Martini

Warning: Don't try this at home. This martini was made on a closed course with professional bartenders.

Like other annual holiday traditions (such as NPR's Susan Stamberg's Pepto Bismol pink cranberry relish), every year people ask us what goes into our Pumpkin Martini so they can imbibe autonomously on the holidays of evil (Halloween) and gluttony (Thanksgiving). And since we give thanks for you, we are reprinting the Pumpkin Martini recipe on today's blog.

In the photo above, Felicia expat Janet and visiting pal Emily dangerously attempt to make the Pumpkin Martini at home in Janet's Los Angeles kitchen.

Pumpkin Martini

1.5 ounces of pumpkin liqueur
½ ounce of Stoli vanilla vodka
1 ounce of half and half (or try hazelnut milk - my new fave dairy substitute)
dash of pumpkin pie spice (Felicia uses her grandmother's special blend)

Shake with ice then strain into a chiled martini glass. Top with whipped cream and another sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Can I see your i.d., please?

Most people respond with annoyance when you ask to see their i.d., unless they are over the age of 50. At that age, they get excited and think you are complementing them, though it’s obvious that they are old enough to drink and you just didn’t want to make them feel bad by only asking for their daughter’s – oops, girlfriend’s – i.d. The closer someone is to age 21, the more likely they are to be miffed that you want them to produce i.d.

The young ones roll their eyes and say, “Oh my god, don’t I look 21? Gheesh. I just turned 22.” What they will understand a decade-and-a-half from now is that at age 39, I can’t tell the difference anymore between an eighteen-year-old and a twenty-eight-year-old. They all look like teenagers, too young to be drinking. And when they reach age 39, they’ll be bumming that no one asks for their i.d. anymore.

The grad students fumble through their wallets and produce beat-up European or Iranian or Albanian or Egyptian drivers’ licenses. I apologize, but tell them in New York, I can legally only accept a passport if someone is not from the U.S. or Canada.

“But look at this,” a young man who looks like a teenager says to me. He hands me a driver’s license from a far-away country where they don’t have letters, but instead write with symbol things. Might as well be Greek to me. Maybe it is Greek. The date proclaims that he is 24 years old.

The man also hands me a document with the title, “International Identification Card.” Scotch tape attaches his picture in the top right-hand corner. “X bar accepts it,” he says. X bar also serves underage drinkers on a regular basis.

“If it helps,” the man tells me, “all of my American friends have i.d.’s.” He points to a table filled with young faces in the rear of the bar. “It helps them,” I say, but I tell him as much as I’d like to give him a drink, I still can’t serve him.

He pulls out a college i.d. Then a business card that states his role in the chemistry department at the college. "I'm sorry," I say.

It’s not that I didn’t believe him. In fact, I’m pretty sure he was over 21. But I wasn’t 100% positive, and one slip-up at the wrong time could cost us our liquor license. In a college town, you can’t be too careful about serving underage drinkers. Liquor authority goons lurk in the shadows and set up sting operations when you least expect it.

The lesson? Get old: Recede your hairline, get some wrinkles, add grey hair to your demeanor. Or, if aging quickly is not an option, bring your passport.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Drinking and Writing

Writing is weird. Each time I sit down to write, the story pours out of me and leaves me achingly empty, and I wonder if I'll ever write again. I could write in my head - or on the computer - for days, waking in the middle of the night with the perfect adjectives to describe the latest drunken character or wacky bar incident, getting up at 5am to write, or staying up til 2am, and I write it all down and then nothing. Empty. I have no faith that I will find words worthy of writing again. I think, maybe I need a mentor. An inspiration. A drink.

Nothing compares to a glass of wine when one is seeking to enter the creative realms of the deepest, darkest corners of the brain. Okay, a good smokey porter compares. Or a shot of Finger Lakes Distilling rye. Or a dirty martini. What's your drink of choice to keep the words lubricated when you write? Do tell.

On a side note, Leah just made me the most amazing meatloaf (ground turkey-carrots-chard-apple-onion-chipotle-tomato glaze) in the world. It paired beautifully with a bottle of (not Sheldrake Point) Argentinian Vistalba Corte B 2005 (thanks, Adam). And now I write.

And may I add, kudos to Sister Ellen, I shall remain fully incapable for the rest of my days of using one space after a period instead of two.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Halloween 2009

Of course the pictures are poor-quality, blurry action shots! I forgot my camera, and you were drunk. It's your fault. Send me better ones if you find some.Felicia's Haunted Cocktail Party extravaganza.

Look out, little girl! Behind you!

Please don't hurt happy Crabby...

Award-winning Jolly Green Giant and his pals.

Dog and dog's best frenemy

Tea bags

The jedi in classic jedi lunge position. Don't hurt your jedi groin.

Dog and Tea bag

Last but not least: Bitchtooth.