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.)
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.
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.
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. http://kapnosdc.com/dinner/ 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.
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.
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.
For my birthday Matt bought us tickets to see the Maori All Blacks play the U.S. Rugby Team. New Zealand’s rugby team is the best of the best. They don’t get any more elite than this team. The Maori All Blacks are all of Maori descent and this is one tough bunch. They were on a tour to promote rugby. Before the game, the All Blacks perform the haka, which is a Maori war dance intended to intimidate the opponents. It is a tradition and unique to the team. You know what we Americans did while they performed? The crowd chanted, “USA! USA!” It was quite rude actually. They did let the Maori singer get through their national anthem, without shouting thank God.
I have not been to a stadium sporting event in years and I was startled at the behavior of the crowd in both the parking lot and the stadium. Hockey and baseball crowds are ridiculously polite in comparison. Or maybe it is that DC bubble that makes it seem so.
We were powerful hungry when we arrived. The stadium had the standard fair and we almost got hamburgers when I saw a small sign that said, “New Zealand meat pies.” Like a laser, I’m on it. We ordered the spicy chicken. It was simply a pot pie served as a hand pie which lead to a kind of messy situation since a pot pie has a lot of gravy. We had gravy all over our fingers. But it was still pretty good considering it was stadium food.
The U.S. team tried to hold its own but after a while the All Blacks just overpowered them. If you want to see a tough bunch of guys, check out rugby. No padding, no helmets, no stopping play for anything as foolish as an injury. Lots of tackling, bruising, and the scrum that kind of looks like mass wrestling. More than one guy had a bandage wrapped around his head by the end of the game. One American player hurt his leg bad. He was limping. It looked like he pulled a hamstring. He refused to leave the game. The trainers go onto the field while play is going on. They kept trying to get him off the field and he kept running away from them. Well, running is an overstatement. He was hobbling. But he would not quit. At one point, it was up to him to stop an All Black headed straight for the goal line. His legs just could not give enough force and he got run over. The All Blacks were pretty much in one piece in the end. I am not sure I would say that for our side. (Okay, I was rooting for New Zealand.) What I learned was this is a game I had never seen before and now I want to watch all the time. Sports television networks! Give us rugby!
We have Indian friends who are kind enough to invite us to their home for Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. Traditionally, it is a vegetarian meal and Nemala cooks everything from scratch God bless her. It takes her two days. It sounds simple but if it sall made from scratch, it takes time. She served things like spinach paneer, palak paneer (cheese), potatoes (aloo), rice, dal makani (yummy, yummy dal), curried vegetables (cauliflower and eggplant), and homemade pakora and paratha. She made some heavenly appetizers, one khatta dholka, is a mashed rice and lentil cake that had the texture of a firm polenta with a curry leaf topping. I need to learn how to make that one but it takes two days because it has to ferment and then the next day it is steamed. For dessert she makes these very interesting sweet, they kind of look like dippin dots but I believe they are made from rice. She also makes a halwah, which is a sort of a sweet puddings but it has a silky smooth consistency. It is more like a think puree.