8 PM. Sitting at my table. Chomping down sweet, creamy, dairy-gasmic spoonfuls of flan flavored Palapa Azul ice cream. And then I hear a soft thud.
Lotus (Jo Jo's feline baby) suddenly appears to the right side of my table, either out of thin air or due to self-propellation through the small opening in my door—which one, I'm not sure. In the span of a split second my table goes from being cat-less to being cat-full.
It's not just the ice cream; Lotus will eat tissues if they're not carefully hidden. While I may have been uneasy with the idea of picking up Lotus (or any cat) a month ago, I'm now more used to looping my arm under her fluffy belly, feeling her tiny muscles squirm because she is probably not fond of being tossed out of a room with glorious
ice cream tissues, and letting her hop out of my grasp in disgruntled defeat.
And then the cycle repeats...about once every day.
Cats are funneh.
I cook? Not really.
My trip back home to Jersey last weekend was rewarded with a mucus-laden cough and abdominal pain. Jersey luvs me!
According to my mum, driving uses abdominal muscles that otherwise lay stagnant and flabby as I spend the bulk of my NYC existence sitting and...shifting my butt between different sitting positions. She just got a new spiffy Garmin Nuvi 350 GPS Navigator, which is one of those handy devices that once you have makes you wonder how you ever felt like life was fulfilling and worthwhile without it. (Seriously, I would think that in the near future every car will have GPS built in, like door locks and glass windows, once such novel ideas that are standard in most cars, if they're legal. GPS knows everything. Everything..) We excitedly tested it on the wild roads of North Jersey, going point two miles and taking the left ramp whenever instructed by the computerized British female voice (British or Australian sounds nicer than American to us).
Apparently all that driving I did (which was actually very little, as GPS knows the fastest route to anywhere, even distant planets) disrupted the sleepy state of my abdominal muscles. Combined with the mucusy cough I developed in my dry, not well heated home, every time my body attempts to release a glob of bacteria-laden phlegm, a somehow dull and sharp pain erupts from my belly. My coughing isn't powerful enough to actually release the phlegm from its respiratory prison, meaning that the lovely glob just slithers back down as I put pressure on my abdomen as a post-cough remedy so that it feels less like someone just hurled a baby hippopotamus at my stomach.
Ah, it's not that bad. I'm just saying that New Jersey hates me.
But who cares. IT GREW!
..."It" being my yeasted bread dough, not a nonexistent tumor or my equally nonexistent self-esteem. This weekend I went home partially because I wanted to bake bread and our kitchen is well equipped, despite that not much cooking goes on in it. I found a baguette recipe from a book I just impulsively purchased, Paris Boulangerie-Patisserie, and decided I could probably manage the simple combination of flour, salt, water and yeast. But of course, it's not that simple. If it were, we'd all be making delicious, chewy, thickly crusted breads in our home kitchens, which just ain't happening.
Instead, my bread came out...mediocre. The innards weren't that chewy nor were they filled with holes and the thin crust provided no crispy, shattering awesomeness. Of course, I wouldn't expect anything very baguette-like to come from my first attempt at making bread (well, my first attempt that actually worked) especially since I could tell after I first mixed the flour and water that my dough was probably too dry (most likely because I didn't measure very well after halving the recipe) and I don't really know how to knead bread, but the directions probably could've been more specific. Or have a photo with the caption, "YOUR DOUGH SHOULD LOOK LIKE THIS. IF IT DOES NOT LOOK LIKE THIS, YOU WILL FAIL." I need explicit instructions written in caps.
But I didn't buy the book for the recipes—I just wanted the photos of Parisian boulangeries and patisseries. Which there are plenty of.
Earlier that day my mum and I ate at A Mano, a new pizzeria in Ridgewood. I can't recall what used to be in that location, but judging from the high, two-story ceiling of the restaurant, I'd assume...a business that needed a buttload of space. A car dealership? The red and white walls are lined with large artfully taken black and white photos of ...well, I mainly recall is the series of photos where someone is shaping pizza dough, but I know there are other ones. Lesser ones. Sans dough.
My mum and I started with the chef's assortment appetizer, a platter of various spreadable things (except for the olives) made of peppers, tomatoes, and other vegetable matter I can't remember, and puffy, slightly charred strips of what I assumed was un-topped pizza bread. Our waitress told us what was in all the spreads, but I couldn't remember them all because my cerebrum seems to only have space for about five ingredients before it forgets the end of the list and replaces it with the new information. (By the way, I will never be a waitress). I remember the tuna and artichoke spread for being the only non-vegetarian friendly spread and that one of the other ones had pine nuts in it. Overall it was a good appetizer for two people. Not too filling or deathly.
If my mum had her way, she wouldn't have ordered pizza. Because she is crazy and thinks little of this foodstuff loved by about a gazillion people around the world, and maybe some aliens outside of our universe. Thankfully, I—the loving daughter—was there to shove mozzerella and tomato sauce topped flatbread into her belly. I picked my favorite, regina margherita, topped with blops of bufala mozzarella, plum tomatoes, tomato sauce, extra virgin olive oil, and basil leaves. (Actually my favorite pizza would probably just have tomatoes and no tomato sauce, but this was close enough.)
I don't think it blew me away as much as Tommy, but I can't think of anything wrong with it. The crust was very thin, slighty chewy, lightly charred, and not too soggy, although a little floppy. There was just the right amount of toppings to proved a good balance between "crust" and "stuff on the crust", in my opinion. (It's the same balance I like to see in sammiches.) Whatever that means. I'm very far from being any kind of pizza expert. (But to comment on Sandra's comment, when I was in Rome—granted, not Naples—all the pizza I ate came unsliced. Same in Paris. Not that Paris is exactly pizza-city.)
I think it'd be more fun if I could go with a bunch of people so that we could taste four pies at once. Right? I am right. Unfortunately, I don't know many people back home. If you live in NYC, Ridgewood is an easy train or bus ride away, although it'll take you about an hour to get there. And when you do get there, there isn't much else to do besides eat. Not that that should bother you too much. ;)
When the waitress asked us if we wanted dessert, my mum started to say no...until I interjected with, "HELL NO, WE'RE GETTING DESSERT." Except that's not what I said so much as thought. (Trust me, much screaming goes on in my wee little brain that never verbally shows itself. People wonder when I'll crack and explode in expletive-filled rage. I dunno man, I just don't know. Let's not think about it.) Whatever I said, it resulted in the waitress bringing us the dessert menu and my mum and I getting our favorite respective Italian sweetstuffs.
My mum has been obsessed with tiramisu for as long as I can recall. A decade, let's say. Although I don't dislike tiramisu, I can't imagine being obsessed with it to the point that I'd have to order it every time I got the chance. However, my mum doesn't understand why anyone would like chocolate chip cookies. Poor misguided soul that she is. It's kind of funny how we're obsessed with different things so that each other's stash of guilty pleasures is never at risk of being raided by the other female in the household.
Ah, so the tiramisu...I tried a bite and thought it was good, but I don't know how to judge tiramisu. Besides, I was concentrating on my gelato.
I would say that I really liked this gelato, but my tastebuds were distracted by the freakishly small portion that was dwarfed by the medium-sized cup. I'm used to gelato coming in the form of a dairy-laden mountain, not in three walnut-sized blobs. The size of the serving possibly made it the most expensive gelato I've ever eaten, which makes Otto look very appealing. Out of the flavors I chose—zuppa inglese, coconut, and stracciatella—I liked zuppa inglese the most. I can't really recommend ordering the gelato though since the small portion isn't worth the $5 price tag. Also, I don't think I could accurately judge it based on the bite-sized portions of each flavor.
Overall, I'd go back to A Mano for pizza action. But no gelato. Unless they serve it in generous slabs. The service is very attentive (I forgot how many times our waitress asked us if everything was going well) and Roberto, the pizza man himself, seemed to be asking every table (including us) what we thought of our pizza. I overheard this conversation he had with another table:
Mother: Are you the chef?
Roberto: Oh no, chef is too big of a word. I just make pizza!
As though my posts weren't random enough already...
I decided to take a photo of my latest Whole Foods purchase so you can see how doomed I am when it comes to grocery shopping on my own. I started off thinking that I just want some bread and oranges, but then, oh look, a muffin! That would be good for tomorrow morning's snack. And hey, I don't need chips, but those blue corn sesame chips look tasty and I've never had them before. And I like sardines, but maybe I'll try a different canned fish...oo, salmon! What the hell am I going to use that for, I don't know, but into the basket it goes. Yogurt's good too right? Yes, that's going into the basket too, even though I don't even feel like eating yogurt right now. And god knows I don't need ice cream in sub-zero weather, but if it's good enough for Ed Levine, it's good enough to enter my digestive system as well. And I like flan.
DAMN IMPUSE BUYS, I HATE YOU ALL.
Actually, I could kind of go for those chips right now.
I got a new lens!
Per Youngna's recommendation, I bought a new lens for my Rebel XT and got to test it out during today's "Techniques of Regional Cuisine" class (or, more simply, "cooking" class).
The course is based around flatbreads and stuff to accompany the flatbreads. (That's not exactly how it's described in the syllabus, but you know me; I aim low on the scale of eloquence.) This week we concentrated on India. God knows how "authentic" our food tasted, but it wasn't bad. Probably could've used more sodium.