Saturday, August 30, 2008

jamón ibérico de bellota

The woman behind the counter at Zingerman's asked me if I wanted a taste of the Bellota. She'd been helping me (et al) with a terrific set of cheeses (account to come with pictures later), and I'd commented on the iberico which was finally let into the States in recent months. Even though Zingerman's has a policy that anyone can taste any product, I still felt guilty asking for a taste of something that cost $200 a pound. Considering that a leg of this will run you--if you can get it--as much as $2000, this qualifies as the most expensive food I've ever tried.

When the guy who managed the cheese counter heard I was trying the bellota, he said, "It will ruin you."

He was right. Not even the rarest prosciutto or serrano I've had has compared to the balance of salt and butter that lit on my tongue as the small taste literally melted on my tongue. I could see pairing it with some remarkable small-dairy cheeses, particularly goat and sheep, some very briney olives, and something sweet like figs or apricots to brighten the flavors. Regardless, the jamon would pull it all together with the layers of flavor--from salty to sweet, gamey to serrano--and textures--the meat itself and the buttery layer of fat that adds so much to the overall feeling on your tongue.

There is nothing quite like that, and in this extended love letter to Zingerman's, I must say that that is what I hope for and expect from this singular place.

roadtripping to Michigan

My dad and I have taken the girls to Ann Arbor for our annual Labor Day football trip madness. Yesterday was the long run up. Along the way, we stopped in Beaver Falls, PA, an odd little throwback of a town, for gas and a quick lunch. Before heading to the hotel outside of Ann Arbor, we oohed and ahhed our way through a cheese and meat tasting at Zingerman's. Full accounts, including a description of $200/lb. Spanish jamon will come as time permits later.

For now? It's off to football madness.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Fun - the history edition

Watch this if you didn't last night, and have the time. It may be one of the greatest political speeches ever, and I can't help but think the times, they are a-changing. Come to think of it—hell, even if you have seen it, watch again. Then go out and help us change the world. For the sake of our children and grandchildren.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I must confess that even though I'm a political junkie, I really didn't know that much about Joe Biden. I knew a bit about his record, and a bit about his role in the Senate. But for the most part, he was just another old white guy who passed through the halls of Washington. His speech tonight turned my attitude on its heels.

He came out as a powerful, but not erudite, speaker. He was genuine and grounded. His rhetoric was based in detail and personal experience rather than lofty propositions. When it came to his attacks on McCain, they were specific and established stark contrasts with Obama's positions. That said, what caught my attention from the outset was the story about the death of his wife and daughter and severe injury of his two young sons just before he was due to take the oath of office. For the next five years, he cared for his sons and commuted to DC for his Senate role. He was a single father—a crucible that anneals a man's metal.

Monday, August 25, 2008

hyped stupidity

The shrill coverage by the media of the Democratic convention is a given. It was also a given that the Obama vs. Hillary story would be played, but the degree to which they are using it smacks of a desire for a narrative. After all, if everything was hunky dory, they'd be out of a story to ride from now through November. It's sad, really.

art in Denver

So, I don' t particularly care for the art that I've seen from the airport in Denver, but this is just over the top...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

market report

So, there's really nothing unusual to report about this week's Forest Hill Market run. I got many of the usual items... except for a hunk of raw cow's milk cheese from Avery's Branch Farm. Named Sevenwood, it's a very nice hard, washed-rind cheese. The flavor tends more toward sharp and grassy rather than nutty and creamy. A good cheese, but not necessarily a local cheese, I suspect. I don't have firm confirmation on this, but evidence from their web site and other information suggests that they haven't entered the cheesemaking business, just the cheese-selling business. It's unfortunate; after all, the pleasure of buying at the market is buying from a direct connection to the soil on which something was created. Minus that the market simply becomes a bastardization of shopping at a nice grocery store.

Mind you, I'd have no problem if the folks at the dairy readily admitted--the way the Faith Farms people do--that they are not the direct producers of certain products. We'll leave it at that for now.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Fun -the whacked edition

So, I drank a variety of beer at Can Can last night with my buddy Phil. Amongst the beers we tried was Delirium Tremens on tap which Phil described as "a beer so good it makes you cry." Delirium Tremens is also the beer with pink elephants on the label, which leads me to think that the brewmasters have brewed it with some sort of delightful magic. It also makes videos like this seem perfectly natural—and hilarious.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

summer fun

Originally uploaded by spcejunk
Since there is absolutely nothing else going on in the world and since summer is coming to a close, let's give a salute to pools and popsicles! First grade is just around the corner.

(Photo courtesy of Phil.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

meltdowns, a recipe

Here's the recipe:
  • Take one (1) tired six year-old.
  • Add a divorce.
  • Add one (1) corn dog, one (1) small bag of goldfish, and one (1) ice cream pop.
  • Make the child run around all day, followed by an extra hour of playground time.
  • Add two (2) parents to play off each other, but keep the parents from taking the bait.
  • Whisk lightly and watch the results. Then duck because the meltdown the six year-old will have will be beyond epic proportions. Also, prepare your constitution for the child to say some mean things and not to listen to you.
  • Reset your patience meter.
  • Add one (1) fruit popsicle, two (2) whole wheat bread, and cartoons to taste while allowing the mixture to calm down.
  • Hope that this is the worst it gets.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Picked this up off Gawker. It made me laugh, and made me nostalgic for the days of Doeling Dairy at the Fayetteville Farmers Market.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

reporting for duty

We are hitting our busy season at work, and I've been handed a few brand new projects on top of it. The mental exhaustion, not to mention sheer time put in, have eaten away at time to do this.

That said, It occurred to me earlier tonight as I thought about getting an update on here that parenting is a pretty remarkable journey. (Certainly Brian can attest to this.) Why do I throw out this random and vague remark? Well, Banana threw a huge fit at the pool today—one of several she has thrown lately. She was mad at me for making her share even when she didn't want to, and after a bit we worked it out and decided to head home. She was a very tired bug. Before we left the pool deck, though, she said she wasn't ready to go yet. I checked my watch and told her she could only play for fifteen minutes. "Twenty," she said, and I bit my tongue and gave it to her. It was worth more to me to see her bounce out of the earlier funk than it was to fight to leave right then. When we did leave (on time!), she was in good spirits and rubbing her eyes. There was one more minor hiccup on the way home when she decided to tell me what upset her about our head-to-head earlier.

Then the fun part happened. We got home, and I asked her if she wanted to see the pile of school supplies* I'd bought while she was on a playdate earlier in the day. In an instant, she was in the kitchen helping unpack and label the school supplies while I made dinner. Her spirits were great. Between dinner preparations, I was able to help her get everything together.

It is impossible to overstate how important these brief moments of working together are, how much they offset earlier upsets.

* The teacher assignments at Banana's school come along with an extensive list of school supplies that must arrive with the child on the first day. Some of them are labeled and child-specific—certain pencils, an art smock, their folder, etc.—but many are put in the common pool of glue sticks and crayons for the entire class. This is just one of the many ways parents end up subsidizing the public school system, a system so bankrupt of operating capital that buildings cannot be repaired effectively and parents must raise money or provide supplies just to keep the classrooms stocked. Wouldn't it be remarkable if the government recognized that our schools are every bit as important—maybe even moreso?—as our military-industrial complex?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Friday Fun — the late, design-geek edition

This requires no further explanation... I hope.

Friday Fun - a day late and a dollar short.

Put the kids out of the room before watching this...

And a bit of a comic response...

market report

In the past few weeks, Banana and I have been slower to get going on Saturdays. We've arrived at the market close to 10, almost an hour and a half later than usual. Thankfully, the produce has been so plentiful we've been able to come away with a decent haul. Admittedly, we've missed out on some cuts of meat, shiitakes, raspberries, and some other excellent market purchases of which the supplies are less plentiful. What we have not missed out on are the crowds. The little market that could has become the the monster market. When the decision to start the market was made, the manager of the year-old Byrd House Market put up the money to rent the space out of her own pocket. She should be deservedly proud of her contribution to the community, and it would do the city good to see that a market can succeed—and thrive—without being micromanaged by the powers-that-be.

Now, stepping down off my soapbox, here is the week's haul:
  • Sungold tomatoes and peppers from Amy's Organic Garden
  • Basil and heirloom tomatoes from Victory Farms
  • Cantalope, cucumbers and corn from two farmers whose names escape me
  • Peaches—the last 3 at the Saunders Farm stand
  • Amish Roll Butter and Chicken from Faith Farms
  • coffee beans from Blanchard's Roasters
  • Whole wheat bread from Newtowne Cottage

For lunch, I made a salad with cukes and tomatoes, garnished with basil. One of the tomatoes I cut up was the one below. It was the only one of its kind among the heirlooms, and now I really wish I'd asked the people at Victory Farms what kind it was. First of all, I'd like to be able to find it again; second, heirlooms have some really remarkable names. Anyone who can identify the variety, please let me know in the comments.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Too tired and too busy with work lately to attend to this. Dammit. Be patient, my few readers. There will be real content soon.

Monday, August 11, 2008

business knows best

Our Prezdent continues to leave his environmental legacy:

The draft rules also would bar federal agencies from assessing the emissions from projects that contribute to global warming and its effect on species and habitats.

purely partisan moment

I haven't written about the market or given the neurosis-driven account of Banana's birthday party, but what I want to offer is Obama's stellar response to McCain's silly attacks.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I am juggling knives while crossing a high-wire over a tank of sharks. I don't know how much longer I can keep this up.

Or at least that's how life feels when I'm trying to organize a six-year old's birthday party on top of everything else. The full account will come later, but suffice it to say that we're doing it at the pool. And storms have moved into a previously clear forecast.

Friday, August 08, 2008

notes on cooking

I have often approached cooking with the same sort of blind gusto I used for many other pursuits. I'd take an idea or a recipe and execute it to the best of my ability. Often, the results were good. Sometimes, the results were not good. While I rarely produced anything that was truly bad, I also rarely produced anything that was truly great. More often, I would come up with some thing that was good—or good enough. Often what I lacked in knowledge, I made up for in exuberance. What I lacked was a true understanding of how the process of cooking worked. Call it a blind spot for scientific interest or perhaps a disinterest in process.

What really changed things was getting a 22 inch Weber grill this summer. It's one of the big kettle grills that can be used to do anything from making pizza to smoking meat. It's simple in its design and requires nothing other than charcoal for cooking. I tend to use hardwood charcoal rather than briquets since it produces a better, hotter fire. Be all that as it may, I've learned how big a jump it is from grilling a steak well to understanding how to grill tofu, vegetables, or chicken. Smoking ribs was also an education unto itself. The reality is that different kinds of fires work in different ways, and different foods require different approaches because of how they will react to the fire. It's part intuition, part science, and it is all about understanding and being patient with the process. Or rather, it is if you want to cook well, consistently.

Earlier this week, for instance, I smoked ribs in the Weber. To do so, I could have put a fire down and slapped the ribs over it and covered the grill, but the result wouldn't have been nearly as good. Instead, I delved into the best ways and used a hot, indirect fire, and a drip pan with water and cider vinegar. I prepped a mop sauce based on how the components actually interacted with the kind of heat I was using—for instance, a dash of sugar to give sweetness, but not enough to caramelize on the meat. In fact, it's small details like understanding how ingredients interact and react that I've begun to watch. The result? Truly excellent ribs. Could I do them again better next time? Probably.

In the end, cooking is like so many things in life: you have to understand—deeply—what you're doing and why you're doing it before you can take the step from pretty good and happy accidents to excellent and consistent.

Friday Fun

Busy at work. Angst-ridden over Banana's birthday party this weekend. Kick-ass song, and the lyrics catch the state of things.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Picked this up via Kos and John Cole... It's so cute it's like a video cavity.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

slow burn

And McCain's slow burn continues with this:

Seriously. Is there a single piece of rhetoric in here that hasn't been a stock part of the standard Republican presidential campaign speech since 1980? Out of control governmental spending? Check. Lowering taxes on businesses? Check. Opening new markets to U.S. products? Check—and checkmate since that particular chestnut is more than one hundred years old.

Jeez. The man's rhetoric is as tired as his voice.

Meanwhile, he's just been owned by Paris Hilton. Wow.

Monday, August 04, 2008

saddest campaign moment ever...

This has to be one of the most pathetic, uncomfortable campaign moments ever. It's. Just. So. Inarticulate.

Picked up from Wonkette.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

weekend round-up, and/or a few quick updates

Without further ado...
  • Banana passed her swim test on Friday night and celebrated by going off the diving board for two and a half hours. We subsequently spent a significant chunk of the weekend at the pool. I also got a clinic—from our barber—on how to care for fine blonde hair at the pool.

  • The Forest Hill Farmers Market was just as busy and interesting as usual. I stepped back a bit on our purchases this week because we've built a surplus. There were no wildcards on my purchases, but a dairy had arrived this time. Banana was cranky, however, so I needed to scuttle the trip. My hope is that they return next week.

  • I've acceded to Banana's wish for a kitten for her birthday. G-d help us all.

  • Chilled pinot noir is surprisingly good.

  • John McCain will do everything he can to destroy Obama. It's going to be an interesting few months.

More later.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Friday Fun - Michael Franti edition

It's a tough world, and these are great songs.


I'm glad to see Obama responding to the absurd McCain allegations. That said, I would prefer to see Obama's people developing ads that continue to burnish his credibility. It's dangerous to get into a responsive stance, particularly if you've already got your opponent in response-mode.