Day 2- amsterdam-it

I love this vibrant, young, picturesque city with it’s unique architecture, canals, cyclists in biblical numbers, with countless appealing shops that warrant a good face print on their dressed-up storefront windows.

Today we went to the Rijksmuseum which is only one block away.  Worth it but DO buy your ticket online to avoid the on-site ticket line. It will be an open ticket so no reservation time to be locked into later.

However, avoid any sudden burst of spontaneity after your museum tour.  When you see the ground level water fountain, a circle of revolving frigid water where people are standing in the middle, just shy of getting wet, walk away.  First of all, under most cicumstances, you would never mingle with any of these folks unless they married into the family.  Look straight ahead.  Keep walking to the cafe with the sign that reads, “wine and beer.”

Now I sit here with ice on my knee., limping on the second day of a 16-day vacation.  Nothing is broken– just a swollen knee missing a  lot of skin.  There’s a shop nearby that sells walking canes.  They open at 10 am tomorrow.  I bet I won’t have to wait in line there.

Philadelphia’s South Street, etc .

Ben Franklin garage doorWe traveled to Philadelphia, PA recently for a wedding. I worked at a client site in Philly for about six weeks several decades ago. I was on a ridiculously lax expense account so I dined like I suspect members of Congress do when they cross paths with a lobbyist. It was a fun six weeks except for the actual work I was doing: interviewing employees of our client, and ultimately making suggestions for the ones who needed to be laid-off.

I had good memories of South Street back then, so we rented an AirBnB apartment off of South Street. Like most things in life, it has changed into more of an eclectic neighborhood by day: lots of restaurants and sports bars, hat shops, sex toy shops, consignment stores (some good, some skanky), and a Whole Foods.   Continue reading

What does a Mississippi Gal do with Left-Over Grits? Make salad.

Put left-over grits in a container. Pack it down so when it is cold it will lift out of the container in one piece.  (My mom used to put the left-over grits in an open ended left-over soup can.  That way when she wanted to use the cold grits, she just pushed them through to the other side, then cut up the cylinder of grits into slices.)Grits-Houlimi Salad

Cut the grits up in slices and cook slowly(medium heat) in a combination of butter and canola until crispy. (If you do this too hot and fast, it won’t work, although you could put it into a fryer and be done with it but the grits would absorb more oil and butter – less healthy. Anyway, cook until crispy. Then cut into cubes. Allow about 10-15 minutes for this.

Another Unexpected Ingredient:  Halioumi cheese. It is a weird sheep cheese from Cyprus that you can grill and it doesn’t melt. This is the best way to eat this cheese. Served cold, well, it is like doing penance. Grill it on the grill or cook it on a high temp cast iron skillet, which is what I do. (You can also put it on a non-stick pan on high and cook very quickly till brown.) Cut up into squares and put aside.

Make your salad dressing. I did a basic balsamic vinegar salad dressing with a bit of orange zest and smoked salt. The latter is not necessary.

I cooked two slices of bacon and chopped up the crispy slices afterwards. Chopped up some tomatoes (not too much), spring mix salad, and tossed all the ingredients. (Gently put the cubes of grits on top. They tend to crumble if you just toss them with all the ingredients.)

Note: My Momma taught me not to waste. An easy enough concept since I couldn’t feed my leftovers to the poor people in China. I am referring to the mantra of our parents: “Think of the poor people in China syndrome of the 50’s generation”. I am sure that I am not the only person who silently thought that if it made sense to ship over the food we didn’t want to eat on our plate, we would have happily taken the money out of allowance to pay for it: just to not hear that phrase at the end of every friggin meal.

I don’t want to think of what my parents would say about China now.

What’s up today

Getting ready for a four-day trip to the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. We’re heading there for the wedding of Dean’s niece, Sian. We’ve rented an apartment just off South Street in the Old City area. Lots of restaurants and bars in this area and easy access to the city. Many years ago, I worked for over a month in Philadelphia at a client site, commuting from DC by train on Sunday night and returning on Friday evening. That was in the days of ridiculously lax expense accounts and I dined like a queen who didn’t carry a wallet.  Food never tasted so good.

Joining us are Alex and Caroline, Dean’s brother and sister-in-law, who we adore. They also live in Austin (which is one of the reasons we moved here). Anyway, looking forward to exploring the city together. First on my list, the Barnes Foundation, which is believed to be the greatest private collection of post-impressionist and early modern art in America.

I’ve been reading menus of restaurants and have zeroed in on a couple, most within walking distance of where we will be staying. Not certain if everyone will be on board with me, which is OK. There’s a bourbon pub/café nearby and I’m betting Alex (Mr. Bourbon) has already found it on the Web. Although, Alex is in China right now and arriving after we get there.   Perhaps he should be sipping warm water and not alcohol while recuperating from jet lag. Nah….

Yum Yum. I say num-num – Bon Appetit?

What the hell is going on with Bon Appetit magazine?  I have been a subscriber for decades.  (My yearly subscriptions was actually a tax write-off when I was a food critic in Ann Arbor.)  Now, I am questioning whether to renew my subscription, although I probably have paid ahead into 2030 because of the incessant renewal requests.

All of the sudden, the font is size 8 (or less) and often is almost the same color as the friggin background.  Yeah, I know.  BA is going after the younger audience, but hey, I still cook using new recipes.  I still want to crawl in bed at night with my foodie magazine and get so hungry I find myself in the pantry with a flashlight.

However, the most irritating and unjustified offense of the magazine:  size 8 font and often close to the same color as the background.  Right now, I’m looking at directions for making a classic martini.  Under Do the Twist (like in a lemon), the font is size 7, medium gray ink, with a similar background color.  I need a magnifying glass.  I need a martini.

I’ve always enjoyed going to the magazine’s r.s.v.p section.  This is where readers request the recipe of a favorite dish they had in a restaurant, and BA gets the restaurant to let them publish it.  It’s a good way to see what people are eating when they dine out.  This month’s r.s.v.p. section has recipes for stuff like  Tofu Yum-Yum Bowl (I say Yuck-Yuck), Lentil Croquettes with Watercress and Kefir  (Keifer Sutherland?),  Ham and Pea Pies, ….and this month’s dessert,  Miso Doughnuts.  For the love of God, where is this country headed?

More grumbling to follow.  There’s Food & Wine magazine…

The Easter Bunny is a Fraud but It’s OK. He’s the One with the Chocolate.

I’m kind of a grump when it comes to the Easter Bunny. At a very early age, my mother was instrumental in curing me of that holiday myth.  I was around 6 years old. A few of my friends in the neighborhood were over and we were getting ready to decorate eggs in our kitchen. While we were all waiting for the boiled eggs to chill down, my mother motioned for me to follow her out into the hallway. She put her hands on my shoulders, leaned in and said, “I want you to know something. There is no stupid Easter Bunny. It is just one more stupid American tradition that gives kids a bunch of candy.”  (I should also mention that she hated Halloween.) She was angry now, and said, “It’s when Christ died on the cross for our sins.  Americans always have to make religious holidays into something commercial. So, just remember, Christ on the cross, no Easter Bunny. Now. Go back to your friends, and don’t tell them what I said.”

So when I tell you this story, imagine a wide-eyed, curly-haired, skinny kid looking up at her mother who had a very thick Mexican accent. (I often had to translate to my friends what she was saying.) I accepted what my mom said. I had already become suspicious about the whole bunny story, but wasn’t quite ready to give up on an Easter basket full of chocolate. The hardest thing for me that day was going back into that room. Would they be able to tell what had happened by just looking at me? Would they pry out the ugly truth, burst into tears, then run home to their moms crying? My God. I would forever be known as the kid who killed the Easter Bunny.  My mother, well, she would have to leave town. Continue reading