Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Preservation #1

Woo Hoo!!!!  The Preservation Hall Jazz Band is still alive and kicking and they are on tour with new band members.

PHJB has been around for fifty years.   My mother loved Preservation Hall.  I think she first saw them on PBS.  One of the first iterations of the band had a tuba player named Alan Jaffe, who also happened to be the founder of Preservation Hall Jazz Band.  She loved that tuba.  Mr. Jaffe passed away but the Hall and the Band carried on.  She introduced me to them and hey, how can you not love New Orleans style jazz?

I have since been to the Hall in New Orleans twice including once on a lark, when Matt and I took my mom to New Orleans and we went to see a show.  She had a ball.

So I was tickled when I learned they were coming to Baltimore.  The newly formed band is headed by Ben Jaffe, the founder’s son.  He plays tuba and stand up bass.  He pulled together some of the best musicians in New Orleans and they put out a new recording.  How could I resist?  By the time we found out, the show was a few days away but we got great seats.

What bothered me is that in a setting like a symphony hall, you can’t get up and dance.  Everyone sits.  This is not sitting music. There can be no sadness when New Orleans style jazz is playing.  There is toe tapping, there is clapping, there is dancing.  Even for the sad songs. These bands play for funerals and it is a celebration.  But alas, a symphony hall crimped my style.

Finally, one of the band members got everyone to stand up and clap and dance.  That lasted for a few songs and then all the old folks got tuckered out and had to sit down again.  One older gentleman was so incensed at the rowdy behavior that had been fomented that he stalked out giving them the old wave of the hands saying, I’m done with this.  Seriously.

Well, my joy was not daunted.  We clapped and danced even if we were just sitting.  I loved all of the musicians but my greatest joy was watching the band’s tuba player dance around while playing his sousaphone.   Talk about some lungs.  He was marvelous.  I wish my mom had been able to see him.  She would have loved it.

preservation #2
Two tubas! Yes!

Thanksgiving 2013 – Dinner and Movies

We gave thanks for not being in the traffic and weather that created numerous headaches up and down the East coast yesterday.  We also gave thanks for having a nice relaxing movie day.

We watched the movie, The Grand Master, the story of Ip Man, a kung fu grandmaster and his journey from pre-Communist China, the invasion of Japan, and his exile to Hong Kong.  It was a gorgeous movie to watch, the scenes so carefully planned with color, texture, lighting and costumes.  The story focused on Ip but the larger history of China and kung fu were also part of his personal history, which made it a big, lush cinematic movie about a historic figure.  Plus, there was a lot of kung fu which made it that much better.  He is reputed to have taught Bruce Lee.

After the movie, I had to focus on dinner.

I had a bee in my bonnet that I was going to have game for dinner.  I started off thinking buffalo but as I investigated Colonial history, it was clear that the likely food would have been game birds or venison.  I went with pheasant.

I found a recipe for pheasant with a rustic cranberry sauce that turned out to be a true plate scrapper.  It was an odd combination of cranberries cooked in red wine, sour cream, bacon and honey.  We could not get enough of this sauce.  As I was cooking the pheasant, the gamey smell started to worry me.  But the sauce mellowed out the flavor of the bird and complemented it completely.  Sometimes game birds need something sweet to offset the game flavor. This sweet-tart combination was so much the better.  I wanted to take a picture but alas, we had scarfed it down before I remembered.  All that was available were clean bones and scrapped plates.

On the side, I had a wild rice dish from The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook.  The Cafe is attached to the National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall.  If you every want a fantastic meal when you are checking out the museums or monuments, stop in.  It is pricey but this is fine dining in a cafeteria.  The recipe called for the rice to be tossed with  a simple apple cider vinaigrette, pumpkin seeds, green onions, and I added some micro-greens instead of carrots and tomatoes.

For dessert I made mini pecan pies.

After dinner, we went out to a movie.  All is Lost with Robert Redford, and only Robert Redford, is a tale of one man’s battle with the sea.  What we learn is that the sea and weather are formidable opponents and we are at their mercy.  You can take all of the action movies with monsters and super villains and they can not match what nature throws at him in this movie because this is actually real life stuff.  What happens to him could happen to anyone.

This movie has only a few words of dialogue.  It is just Redford acting.  It was gripping.  To watch him alone trying to figure out what to do when a hole is blown in his yacht was absolutely worth watching.  I had to know what was going to happen.  Redford carried that movie with only his face and his body doing the acting.  We watched in  fascination as he tried to survive.  I cannot say enough about this movie and if he is not nominated for an Oscar, indeed, if he does not win the Oscar, there is no justice.  I cannot think of anyone who could pull this off.  But he did it.  Just see the movie.


I got 34 catalogs in the mail today.  34.  It was a very big pile that filled the mail box.  I wish I could sell my name and address with such success.  It really bugs me that someone else is making money from my profile.

Tonight we had a meatball soup from Umbria.  Ground veal and pork mixed with raisins, pine nuts and orange zest poached in chicken broth.  Oh, Lidia, thanks for that.  You too Umbria and Italy.  I added some cherry tomato halves and a small portion of egg noodles to fill it out, then I topped it with Asiago cheese.  It was light but filling.

Bangkok Noodles

Holy moly, I need to put a warning label on that green curry paste from the Korean store.  Caution:  HOT!!!

I cooked up Nicole Routhier’s Bangkok Noodles for dinner.  It is a lovely amalgamation of rice noodles, shrimp, coconut milk, and pineapple from her Fruit Cookbook.  The recipe calls for yellow curry.  I did not have it so I went with Thai green curry paste.  Yikes!  I thought my lips were going to fall off.  I tried chugging beer with it but that did not help much.   I gulped it down but it was pretty painful.  Matt was in such distress he finally gave up and asked me to rinse his noodles to clean off most of the curry.

Why do we eat hot foods?  Why?  Because our brain doesn’t know any better or if it does know better, it just doesn’t care.  By the time the tongue gets the message up there, it is too late.

Cabbage Day

We got all of our vegetables today since it  seems to have been cabbage day.

I bought some kimchi and we had what I call Kimchi Reubens for lunch.

Kimchi Reuben – Serves one

Two slices rye bread

2-3 ounces roast beef or roast turkey

1/2 cup kimchi (we like medium spicy)

1 slice reduced fat cheddar cheese

Top one slice of rye bread with the meat, then kimchi, then cheese.  Broil or toast both the stack and the other slice of bread.  Eat it up, yum.

There is a food writer in the Washington Post, Joe Yonan, who claims his friends accuse him of putting kimchi in everything.  We are not quite there but it is true that sometimes we get on a kimchi binge and then look out.  I will hunt the internet for recipes and sometimes I make my own.

For dinner we had a risotto with shredded cabbage and sweet Italian sausage.

Dinner and a Movie

… at home.  We watched RED 2.  This is great stuff for we middle aged types.  Not too violent and noisy but entertaining.  I still think Bruce Willis is funny and interesting and who knew John Malkovich could be so funny.  He plays this loony RED to the max.

We had one of our favorites for dinner.  First I broiled some roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese.  Then we followed that up with a balsamic tossed arugula salad wrapped in a lavosh that has been sent under the broiler to melt its Gruyère cheese topping.  I adapted this from a recipe in a cookbook called Mediterranean Cooking the Healthful Way by Marlena Spieler.  I love this cookbook.  It has wonderful Mediterranean recipes that are simple, full of vegetables, and reflect the Mediterranean diet, written long before that was the thing.  I have several of Spieler’s cookbooks and everyone is just as good.

Pens v. Caps

Go Pens!  The Pens had been on a losing streak so we were a bit worried that we might actually lose to the Caps.  Why worry?  They didn’t show up.

Because Matt needs to protect his ankle, we sat in the handicapped section with the old folks. We had a great view.  Unfortunately what we were watching was not good if you were a Caps fan.  The poor guy sitting next to me was despondent by the end of the game.

Before the game we went to Graffiato for pizza.  They make the second best pizza crust in the city.  (Two Amys has the trophy.)

Icing Delivery Vehicle

icing deliver vehicle
icing deliver vehicle

We have developed a passion for the mini chocolate cupcakes from Whole Foods.  We are allowed to have one with afternoon coffee. They are called two-bite cupcakes.  Nonsense.  one bite will do.   I have concluded that a cupcake is  really nothing more than icing delivery vehicle.  That is fine so long as you don’t over do it.

Battling squirrels with PAM

squirrel #2
Very clever

We have one bird feeder.  Just one that I fill with hulled sunflower seeds because they do not leave a mess.  Out here, we don’t get much in the way of junk birds.  Very few starlings, no pigeons.  We do have chickadees, juncos, bluejays, cardinals, Carolina wrens, titmice, robins, mourning doves, catbirds, various sparrows, and the red-tailed hawk that hunts the feeder. The largest seed consumer is not any of those birds however.  It is the half-dozen squirrels that populate our yard.  Squirrels are singularly clever and rarely daunted.  I am not sure why the squirrel is not treated with more respect.  BEcause they are the McGuyver of the animal kingdom.  No matter where I put the feeder, they figure out a way to get to it.  Hanging on sideways, upside down and sometimes by two little paws, they push their way into the small holes that grant access to the seeds. I decided to test their agility and cunning.  I sprayed the feeder pole and the feeder with PAM cooking spray and waited.  Matt got to see the hilarious moment when the squirrel tried to shimmy up the feeder pole only to slide down with a perplexed look of “what the…?”  They soon figured out to avoid the pole.  The feeder is about two feet from  a high brick wall that anchors one end of our patio.  It is probably about eight feet high.  The next plan of attack was to jump from the wall onto the top of the feeder.  But I had sprayed that with PAM too.  The first few times any of them tried, they slipped off. Now the squirrel cleverness begins.  The feeder is decorated with metal leaves that are not attached to but pressed against the sides of the feeder.  One wily squirrel grabbed a leaf and pulled it out for something to latch on to.  And it worked.  With his little paws grasping the leaves, he turned himself sideways and dug in.  The fact that they were slippery did not seem to matter because he was able to wrap his paw around the leaf, his claws clipped around the metal. When things like that happen, you just have to give them their due.



Dinner:  Lidia’s pork chops in caper sauce with potatoes and broccoli rabe.

The Stump

drilling stump
This is me drilling the stump to put in some stuff that rots stumps. Check out that drill bit! Not sure if it will work.

I have been working on chopping out a stump in my backyard.  We had a tree cut down and they ground the stump but they missed part of it because it was buried under all the sawdust.  So I have been slowly hacking away at it.  Matt thinks it is hilarious and he has taken videos of me swinging the axe but he has been having technical problems.

Why chop?  Because it feels damn good.  I cannot explain how satisfying it is to physically overcome an immovable object or to just whack. I could spend hours digging and chopping.  My hands don’t like it of course.  When I first started doing it, I would wake up and my hands would so stiff I could barely hold a fork.  But they are getting used to it now.  I pretend I haven’t had rotator cuff surgery.  My doctor assured me that he would sew me back up if I did anything to blow it out again.  He was talking about swimming.  I say, hey, swimming chopping, whatever.

After all that chopping I was powerful hungry.  I bought some smoked mussels from the seafood counter at Whole Foods.  I decided to use them in a Jacques Pepin dish–Mussels with Saffron.  He uses fresh mussels.  I just used what I had.  The sauce is a basic tomato sauce flavored with saffron.  Once that cooked down I stirred in the smoked mussels and served it over brown rice.

This turned out pretty good even though I did not have mussel broth.   I used to not like the flavor of saffron. It always tasted a bit soapy to me.   But I find that if I use just the right amount it has a pleasant flavor.


I am spoiled.  Matt took me out to dinner for my birthday.  Oh, who are we kidding?  We will find any excuse to try good food.   Mike Isabella of Top Chef/Graffiato fame opened a new Greek small plate restaurant called Kapnos.   We love Graffiato, which is his homage to his Italian nona, so we had to give the Greek restaurant a try.  Oh joy!

First the taramasalata, cauliflower puree, carp roe and caviar served with fresh pita.  That disappeared in about 30 seconds.  Then saganaki, flambeed cheese and this one served with lemon marmalade.  The lemons sang.  Eating that took another minute.  We were just getting warmed up.  Next up, charred octopus, cooked to perfection with a green harissa and eggplant.  Then lamb tartar, which was the weakest plate.  We really did not like that one. It had an odd flavor.  Of course, it was raw lamb so that was unusual.  But it seemed almost bitter.  Then on to phyllo pies (I had duck, Matt had potatoes).  At this point, we were very nearly full.  But then came out the suckling pig with orzo, and lentils (called “fava,” but not fava beans).  We were simply beyond stuffed and it was all good.  I honestly did not think I could eat another bite but then comes dessert. I am pretty good at avoiding the dessert menu but they had semolina cake with persimmons and every fall I decide I don’t have enough persimmons in my life.  So we split that.  It disappeared.  We scraped the plate.

We ate so much, I was full the next day.  Boy, did I do some exercising for the next few days.  I had to work off that one.

If I have any complaints about this restaurant it is first, the food plates came too fast.  We actually tried to and slow it down by leaving stuff on the plates and picking a bit.  Second the place was way too loud.  The noise level was almost unbearable.  We were shouting at each other across the table or I was having to cup my hand around my ear.  I really dislike loud restaurants.

Rustic Pastichio in Cucina Italiana

            You are going to hear a lot about me cooking recipes from this magazine.  I study it every month.  Today, I was smitten with a recipe for a rustic pastichio made of cabbage, lentils, fennel and gruyere cheese. Unfortunately it is not on their website or I’d post the link.  Look out for the November 2013 issue.  The lentils were cooked in a tomato-based sauce and then thickened with cheese.  They called for marscapone but I do it healthy so I used lite cream cheese instead.  Savoy cabbage leaves were separated and cooked.  The leaves lined the casserole dish.  Into the casserole went the lentils, a layer of fennel that had been cooked with lemons and then a topping of gruyere cheese.  A few layers later, I closed the top with the cabbage leaves, put another heaping of gruyere and parmesan on top and bake.  Good Lord, was it good.  The lentils and the cabbage meshed completely and, of course, cheese makes everything better.  I served it with some crusty bread and we ate in absolute silence because we were so busy scarfing it down.

Grocery Shopping

With Matt on the DL, another of my duties is grocery shopping.  It is always a very dangerous thing for me to do the shopping.  I look at fruits and vegetables and fish and meats and I think about possibilities.  Today I spotted a super fresh Arctic char from Iceland.  This fish was so clear eyed and fresh smelling, I think it just got off the plane.  How could I resist?  Into my basket it went.  I would figure out what to do with it later.

When I got home I pulled out my Scandinavian cookbook, Kitchen of Light by Andreas Viestad, and made the Arctic char with a mustard honey glaze.  Cooking fish at a fairly low temperature is key.  I am with you on this one Andreas.  325º to 375º seems about right.  The fish does not dry out.  Barton Seaver the sustainable seafood advocate, also promotes slow cooking fish.  It was yummy.

I also discovered kiku apples.  Deliciously crunchy and sweet, I had a taste and came home with half a dozen.  They are Italian and Italians make everything better.  And this is why my shopping for groceries is a problem.  I don’t follow the list.  But if I did, it would be like wearing blinders.  I just have to go for it and see what is out there.

My Birthday

I was not in a good mood.  The day was lousy.  It was dreary and just the kind of day you wanted to stay in bed.  I worked a bit.  Then I worked on dinner.  I found a recipe in one of Lidia’s cookbooks for a baked mushroom pastichio with fontina.  I added crab meat and it was fantastic with a little roasted asparagus on the side and a bottle of barolo.  Who needs to go out for dinner when we can eat that?

Matt gave me the Rosetta Stone program to learn Italian.  One day my dream will come true and I will go to Italy and just eat and drink wine while I gaze at olive trees and fields of grapes.  Maybe I’ll never come back.  Soon.  Very soon.  Italy.  We’re coming.

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