Friday, October 30, 2009

You Might Need Those Teeth, Now or Later

Did you know that teeth are worth $20 now?  My niece had her first loose tooth yesterday and, ever the over-achiever, she wiggled it all day long until it fell out.  She woke up this morning, gap-toothed and giggling, to $20.

When did this happen?  My last tooth fell out sometime around 1979 or 1980; I got a dollar.  That's 2000% inflation in less than 30 years.  The only other thing I can thing of that's experienced comparable price inflation over the same period of time is housing and we all know how that turned out.  Although now at least I know that, if I have trouble making my mortgage, I can start pulling out my teeth.

I certainly wouldn't have needed them to eat last night's turkey meatloaf at the Manhattan Diner.  Isn't there something so comforting about a meal like meatloaf and mashed potatoes that you can eat practically without chewing?   I mean, as long as it's not a steak.

In competition reality television news, Crying Christopher survived another round on Project Runway last night. (Doesn't he just weep at the drop of a hat?  I mean, I'm gay, too, but seriously: Man up, dude.  You're already making dresses.)  Meanwhile, they gave the win to Althea, who designed another outfit with what I just learned is called a "paper bag waist."  Because you know what people look great wearing?  A paper bag.  Seriously...this is a thing?  Like a real thing with a real "name" - paper bag waist.  Does this mean I was just ahead of my time when, at age 6, I invented the "7-Day Shirt?"  I can't wait to tell the homeless guy at the subway who keeps his shoes on with rubber bands that he's a fashion genius.

And on Wednesday's Top Chef, loudmouth Mike Isabella finally got himself sent home in the Natalie Portman-I-was-a-vegetarian-now-I'm-a-vegan-so-isn't-it-hilarious-that-you're-cooking-in-a-steakhouse-challenge with some slimy leeks that were overcooked on the outside, raw on the inside.  Meanwhile, Robin squeaked out a stay despite a vegetable medley that was more of a cacophony, and Jen, who seems to have lost her confidence (but not her annoying habit of talking only out of the right half of her mouth), rounded out the bottom three.  Despite an inventive dish from Dirty-Hot Voltaggio that combined banana and polenta (talk about a dish you don't need teeth for) and an eggplant entree from Eli Kirschensteinengoldenbergenbaum, the win went to Kevin the Chefrechaun.  (Hee.  Chefrechaun.)

I don't have much in the way of recipes for you this week.  Monday we had those Turkey Burjicos again, and Wednesday we had that Ginger-Garlic Flank Steak (which not only required teeth, but jaws.  I'm still chewing it.)  What about Tuesday you ask?  Well, on Tuesday Neil ate leftovers and I had the first night of a new class I'm taking.  I'm excited to tell you about it:

I arrived at Actor’s Connection a little early for my hosting class (this is not a class to teach you how to make hot canapés and make small talk with guests, but to teach one how to become a television host.  I know.  You’re thinking I probably wasted $349, especially since eHow thinks they can teach you how to be a TV Host in 7 Easy Steps.  We’ll see.)  The first thing I notice when I arrive is that there are so many children running around, I’m wondering if they're giving out Swine Flu shots.  Then I remember that most Manhattan mommies have conferred medical degrees on themselves and unilaterally determined that vaccinations - despite strict government standards, rigorous testing, and much study by a slew of doctors and researchers - are risky and unnecessary.  Hey lady, tell me how that's working for you when your kid gets mumps.  Or german measles.  Or some other disease kids haven't gotten in, like, 50 years.

Seriously, there's a lot to recommend about the internet, but I worry it's made people stupider.  It's conferred an air of credibility and authority around the most hare-brained opinions, misleading a lot of people who should be smart enough to know better but aren't.  And, in recent years, the mainstream media has become an accomplice in misinforming Americans.

Somehow, journalists have confused giving each side of a debate equal time, with giving them "equal credibility."  Giving each side a forum, in the interest of fairness, is admirable.  However, not pointing out factual inaccuracies, deliberately misleading points of view, or perspectives that are at odds with the generally accepted point of view of experts is an abdication of journalistic responsibility.  We can't simply decide that evolution doesn't exist because we'd prefer to believe in absolute creationism (and - honestly - there's no reason you can't believe in both.  Even Darwin didn't think they were mutually exclusive, and believed evolution itself was God's creation.)  After all, I can't decide that 2+2=3 because I want to, or because it's a biblically important number.

And if I did, and they wanted me to discuss it on a news program, then it's Diane Sawyer's job to point out that - whatever I might choose to believe - I'm wrong.  We learned this in elementary school; it's the difference between something that's subjective and something that's objective.  Objectively - you can't make matters of science subjective.  Subjectively - I think these people are bat-shit crazy.

And keep your kids away from my trick-or-treat basket unless they've had their shots.

Anyway, back to my class.  There’s someone using our classroom, and they’re likely to run over time, so I’m cooling my heels in the lounge while aspiring Dakota Fannings run amok amid a multi-cultural collection of Mama Roses from the outer boroughs.  I wait in the lounge with my classmates (I can figure out who they are by their lack of sticky fingers and the absence of a hunger in their eyes that says, "I'm living out my dreams and papering over my insecurities through my children.")

We’re sitting there as the instructor arrives – an impossibly blond former Miss Connecticut who radiates personality so completely you can see her smiling by looking at the back of her head.  I’m already concerned that this woman is going to generate a lot of light but no real warmth.  I am having flashbacks to meeting Nancy O'Dell in a hotel suite in Hollywood after the 2002 Academy Awards. Another story for another time.

All of my concerns were for naught.  Patricia was kind and friendly and generous.  She's got a great deal of hosting experience, gave really useful business guidance about obtaining representation and getting work, and provided constructive and actionable feedback on our camera work.  I was thrilled, and am eagerly looking forward to our next class.  I'll begin posting my clips on this site, soon.

I can recommend a great breakfast and lunch place if you're in the vast wasteland that is the far west 30s.  The area west of Penn Station is pretty much a dining desert, but a new place called Frame recently opened on W33rd St near Tenth Avenue.  It's got terrific breakfast options and, for lunch, a salad bar, grill and sushi.  It's an upscale deli, but it's super clean and everything I've eaten there has been fresh and delicious.

Since everything we made this week was something I've already given you a recipe for, I thought I'd ask my sister for one of hers.  This week alone she's made Boeuf Bourguignon and Sloppy Joes which she calls the easiest and most delicious in the world.  With a husband and three kids, she's got a lot of recipes because - in her words - she "cooks for these clowns every night."  Alas, she's not giving away the secrets of her Sloppy Joes, so go here and make Rachael Ray's.  After all, she's the queen of hamburgers and a Sloppy Joe is basically a hamburger that doesn't stick together.

(Meanwhile, on Good Morning America, Sandra Lee is frosting Yodels (which are already coated in Chocolate) and sprinkling crumbled cookies on them to turn them into graves.  Dismal, but the headstone made out of a Milano cookie is pure genius.)

Yes, Halloween is coming.  We have a masquerade birthday party downtown tonight, and a Halloween party tomorrow.  I'm throwing off the shackles and eating a bunch of crap (I'm currently contemplating some Grape Now & Laters and it isn't even 9:30am.)

I'll get that $20 yet.


DO THIS, New York:

Take a kid trick-or-treating, or use the occasion to teach kids about the importance of charity.  Numerous programs such as Trick or Treat for Unicef, Trick or Treat for our Troops, and Trick or Treat So Others Can Eat are taking place around the country.  Google the phrase "trick or treat volunteering" or go here

Make my sister give me that dang Sloppy Joe Recipe.

I'm voting in favor of those frosted Yodel graves.  Death was never so delicious.

DON'T DO THIS, New York:

I really don't know any other way to say this but - vaccinations are simply not going to hurt your children.  Think about it - odds are that you had your shots, and you turned out OK.  For the most part.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pull Your Own Pork

For a change, I've decided to write a post while watching food-related television.  I'm just wrapping up an episode of The Next Iron Chef (America), which - on first viewing - comes off as the unholy love child of Top Chef and The Next Food Network Star.  I can't tell you if I'm hooked yet, but I can tell you that Alton Brown is looking really gaunt.  Isn't this the Food Network? Isn't he in moderate proximity to, umm, FOOD?  Eat some of it.

His face has more leftover skin than the deep fryer at a KFC.

(FYI: Alton hosts.  The judges include some chick I've never seen or heard of (the website says it's Anya Fernald - but I don't know who that is), Jeffrey Steingarten - that queeny, fussy guy who judges Iron Chef America (not a judgment.  I, too, can be queeny and fussy,) and Donatella Arpaia, who has created some of my favorite New York restaurants - Mia Dona, davidburke and Donatella, Bellini.  She's totally cool, though she's at risk of becoming known as the black widow of the New York restaurant scene for partnering with extremely talented male chefs, creating multi-star restaurants, then ending the relationship.  She's done it twice in five years (David Burke and Michael Psilakis) and she's showing no sign of slowing down.)

I'm rooting for Amanda Freitag, whose restaurant, The Harrison, is one of my favorites.

Friday night we at a local restaurant called Citrus, which bills itself as offering Latin fare with an Asian flair.  As far as I can tell, that means that they serve sushi and tortilla chips in the same restaurant.  Other than the sushi there isn't much Asian flair, and I'm not sure where butternut squash soup or spaghetti and meatballs fit into either cuisine.  Still, the food is pretty good, so whatever ethnicity they want to claim is fine with me. (Here is where I should explain that my mother is adopted and has, at times, speculated about possibly being Italian, Spanish, and a range of Latin American options - to the point where she once encouraged me to select "Hispanic" on a law school application.  I did not.  But I am OK with claiming any heritage you want as long as it's not dancing the ethical line of a resume or college application.)

My non-Latin, non-Asian butternut squash soup was non-delicious.  (At least it wasn't non-hot, my pet peeve.)  It was bland, with little discernible flavor other than an underlying sweetness.  However, my roasted half Chicken in natural jus (also neither Latin nor Asian), was delicious.  Crispy skin, juicy and tender meat, well-seasoned and served with garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables.  Neil had their chopped salad and a quesadilla (finally, some Latin fare) which he characterized as "just OK."

I kicked off Saturday at Equinox 19th Street, taking a cycling class with Shaina.  I've known her since she started at Equinox and her classes are terrific.  She's got a background in exercise physiology and her classes use a technique called periodization - periods of intensity followed by active recovery, resulting in greater strength and endurance.  Her classes are terrific, balancing intervals, hills and speed work, and Shaina has fantastic energy ("You can do ANYTHING for FIFTEEN SECONDS!"  I am fairly certain she'd feel differently if she'd experienced waterboarding.  Or a Brazilian Wax.  Not that I know.)

Plus, her music is great, which is saying a lot at Equinox.  During my last workout I noticed that the nearly three month marathon of Taylor Swift's "Love Story" had been supplanted by "Walk This Way." Having sweat most of my bodily fluids on the cycling room floor, I needed to refresh and replenish.  With a cheeseburger.

I called Neil and agreed to meet him in the West Village.  I walked over and was about to sit down with my newspaper, when I heard a cheerful voice call out my name.

Those of you who've been reading this blog for a while now know that I am not describing my husband.

You know how there are some people who you simply can't stand, no matter how nice they are?  Neil made a friend at the gym several months ago - a very friendly, nice-looking European guy whom I find irrevocably irritating.  He's unfailingly charming and polite, always saying hello and making small talk - but he has an overly gallant and theatrical manner that I find off-putting; his voice a cross between Julia Child and Hercule Poirot.  I realize this is unkind and says more about me than it does him, and I'm ok with that.  I can live with not wanting to be greeted like I'm the Queen of England.

The truth is I was also having a pretty bad weekend.  I knew that this career change was going to have its ups and downs, and include periods of rejection along with a feeling of being unmoored due to the lack of structure.  However, the past few days have been particularly difficult - William Morris Endeavor passed on representing me, which was not unexpected nor surprising - an audition and callback didn't lead to further interest, and I was beginning to feel frustrated by the effort of getting more on-camera experience, making contacts, developing and pitching my shows, all while trying to run my consulting practice.  I was starting to become nostalgic for my airless, exhausting, lucrative former career and just wanted to sit with the advance sections of the Sunday paper - Real Estate, Travel - and dream about the things we used to spend money on; the spoils of a corporate life that balm the barren soul.

Instead, I was now forced into ritual politeness as I make small talk about my husband (on his way), the weather (awful rain, but better than last weekend's unseasonable cold) and recent headlines (yes, it is frightening in a post-9/11 world that 2 pilots could lose radio contact for 500 miles, overshoot the airport by 150, and there be no obvious military deployment or other activity.)  Finally freed from social convention, we say good bye and a few minutes later Neil shows up (I'm not entirely convinced he wasn't hiding just around the corner, eager to avoid the loquacity.)

We head to Bill's Bar & Burger in the space that was formerly The Hog Pit in the Meatpacking District, and it's here where I need to pause for a little detour.

I know I've written a great deal about the repurposing of comfort food as trendy cuisine.  I'm sorry, but as much as I like meatloaf now, I don't need to pay $20 for the same meal that my mother - and her whole generation - made because it only cost $5 to feed an entire family of four, and that included the valium you needed to slip your kids to prevent them from having a tantrum when they sat down to meatloaf.  Mac'n'cheese, burgers, cupcakes, that Peanut Butter & Co. on Sullivan Street, now fried chicken - we've reinvented an entire category of higher-end dining with casual dining entrees suited to the palette of a seven year old.  What's next?  Fish sticks?  Tuna Casserole?  If some restaurant tried to charge me $8 for a dessert of Jell-O, we're through.

Bill's, however, gets my thumbs up - despite venturing into the burger genre and doing so this late in the game.  Why?  Three reasons:

1.  The prices.  The burgers are in the $6 range, a great improvement over the $11-20+ category that has become pervasive.   A basket of fries is $3.50 and is large enough for 2 regular people or 6 gay men.  Neil and I shared them, with plenty left over.

2.  The quality.  The menu is simple - burgers, chicken sandwich, fish sandwich, hot dog.  A handful of sides, soda, beer and milkshakes.  (That sentence can, and should, be read two ways.  They have beer and they have milkshakes, but they also have beer-and-milk shakes; a stout with a vanilla ice cream float among them.  Ew.)  My burger was well-cooked and well-seasoned (a miracle in a city where so many burgers taste like nothing other than what you put on them; at Bill's the meat has flavor.)  The fries were delicious - warm and salty with a crispy outside but a soft inside; neither limp nor crunchy.

3.  They have American cheese.  Why is this so hard?  So many burger places will offer you cheddar, swiss, bleu - even Gruyere and jack - but very few offer American.  Isn't that the definition of a cheeseburger?

Stuffed and tired, and in no mood to wander through the rain, we decide to hide out in a move theater.  We head over to Union Square to check out the Chris Rock documentary, Good Hair.  Inspired by his daughter's complaint of having "bad" hair, the documentary explores the social and cultural forces impacting African-American women's hair - the products and stylists, the wigs and weaves - folding in the personal experiences of several prominent black women and a 60 year old hair show in Atlanta which includes a styling competition.  It was interesting to learn how much the industry serving African-American women is dominated by east Asian manufacturers and south Asian wig and weave suppliers (the hair being harvested from Indian women.)  Further, the hair show comes down to two men - one African-American, one White, and both so gay the screen nearly burst in flames - but men nonetheless; the two female competitors were practically nonentities.  Thus, the movie offered an interesting, and subversive, subtext about gender, in addition to race.  See it.

After the movie, I needed some couch time with TiVo, and I began by firing up last week's episode of Melrose Place (Hi Jo Reynolds! Bye Jo Reynolds!  You've now done as much for MP2.0 as you did for the alpha version.  Poor Daphne Zuniga; they created a character with so much promise, and gave her so little to do beyond being put-upon.)  After an hour of Ashlee Simpson rolling her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel eyes (cute on a dog, weird on a pop star) at Thomas Calabro (how does he look exactly the same after 12 years?) I progress to Project Runway.

You know, Project Runway really needs to give up the farce that each elimination is solely about that week's competition.  Not that I wasn't happy to see the departure of obnoxious Nicolas with his black humor and his white, sparkly-trashy ice skating costumes.  But cute Christopher Straub has been on the bottom (a familiar position, I'm sure) for three consecutive weeks.  I could understand him surviving the first time, but the past two weeks his work has clearly been the worst, and it's apparent the judges saved him because his haute couture work in the early part of the season was so good and showed real talent and imagination.

I find a similar sin of commission over on Top Chef.  This week's episode was Restaurant Wars, the challenge done each season, generally when there are 8 chefs left (they used to do it with 6, but setting up an entire restaurant in 24 hours is nearly impossible with only three people.)  Thankfully, they've gotten rid of the requirement that the chef's decorate the restaurant.  That segment was always so awkward with the hyper-masculine chefs, accompanied by the occasional butch lesbian or clueless homo, plodding through Pier One and picking out the most tragic decorations like oversize urns (?), scented candles (Ew) and synthetic pussywillow (!).

This season saw the Dirty-Hot Michael Voltaggio, his Uptight-Hot Brother, the clumsy Mike Isabella, and possibly insane redheaded cancer survivor Robin Leventhal not just winning, but blowing the other team away.  It was a pretty bad defeat for the mousy Laurine Wickett, sweaty Eli Kirschensteinengoldenbergenbaum, bearded Leprechaun (Chefrechaun?) Kevin from Atlanta, and their captain: Bitchy Jen from Philly.  Their loss was clearly a failure of leadership and direction, but Laurine got the boot.  Not that anyone's going to miss her, and Jen has clearly been in the top four all season with the Voltaggios and the Chefrechaun.  However, make no mistake that this was a pity save.  Jen knew it, the judges knew it, the viewers knew it.

(Hee.  Chefrechaun.  That's funny.)

Having had my fill of scripted and unscripted soap opera, I head to the kitchen to prepare dinner.  I made a barbecue pork tenderloin that was so good, I have to share the recipe with you.

2 pork tenderloins
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
14 cup ketchup
1/4 cup +1 Tbsp ketchup-style chili sauce
asian chili garlic sauce
sriracha sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Apple Cider vinegar
ground mustard
hot paprika
kosher salt

You can make this two ways: make the sauce, then chill it.  You can then marinate the meat in it, or glaze it, before grilling it.  Alternatively, you can make the sauce then cook the pork in it, which is what I did this time.

Slice the pork crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices; then cut each piece into three strips.  Set aside.

Heat a heavy stockpot (I use Le Creuset - it distributes the heat evenly) over medium high heat, then add olive oil - about 2 Tbsp.  When hot and sizzling, but not sputtering or spoking, add the onion and cook until translucent - about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook another minute or two.  Add the ketchup, chili sauce, Worcestershire, and vinegar and stir.  Add a pinch of Kosher salt.  Stir.  After a few minutes, add about 1-2 tsp of Sriracha and 1-2 Tbsp of the asian chili garlic sauce (more if you like hot and spicy food, less if you don't).  Stir in a little ground mustard and hot paprika, along with 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium, add pork, and cook for 8 minutes, then reduce heat to low.  Continue to cook for at least an hour, stirring periodically, until meat is fall-apart tender.

You can serve this on sandwich rolls, on top of potatoes, or as-is - which is how we ate it; accompanies with some wok-fired asparagus in chili garlic sauce and baked sweet potatoes (2 sweet potatoes, hand cut, sprinkled with a mixture of salt, pepper, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper, and cooked in a 425 degree over for 30 minutes, turning once.)  Slurp.

Dinner was delicious - as was dessert.  I made a crostata, adapted from the Barefoot Contessa.  I replaced her summer fruit with a mixture of Granny Smith apple, pear, cinnamon, flour, and sugar.  I also changed the topping, using quick oats ground in a food processor and using brown sugar instead of white sugar.  Otherwise, the rest of the recipe is here.

Sunday morning came bright and relatively warm, perfect for an autumn run in Central Park (no sighting of pink leopard print this time, thank the Lord.)  After a light lunch at Nanoosh - apparently this is the elusive "something fresh" Neil's been referring to - we head downtown to the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams store for free cocktails.  Only in New York would a furniture store have a cocktail party.  Of course, only in New York would people (us and our friends) take two subways and go to the opposite corner of the city for a free drink.  They were serving champagne and Bundt cake (who did the menu? Donna Reed?)  so after an hour we went in search of a real drink. (On Sundays we sometimes go to a place called Niso's - a Greek restaurant in Chelsea where there's nary a patron eating but the bar is so packed you can barely move.)

Between the five-mile run, the champagne, and the rest of the cocktails, a home-cooked dinner was a dream long dead by 7pm, so we ordered a pizza and camped out in front of the TV. The Next Iron Chef is over and Challenge, that show where four chefs have a cake-off, turning pastry into crazy cartoon characters is on.  It's a Halloween episode, and someone is making a coffin and skeleton.  Yeah, that's what kids love: coffins.

You want to really scare those kids - make a meatloaf.


DO THIS, New York:

Eat a Bill's Bar & Burger

Make that BBQ Pork

See Good Hair

Watch Top Chef and Project Runway

Go for a run in Central Park

DON'T DO THIS, New York:

I'm fairly certain it's not a good idea to give kids Valium, though I won't physically stop you.

You can skip Citrus.

I'd advise you not to throw a cocktail party in a furniture store.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Four Days in Tucson

It's approximately 450 degrees in Arizona when I retrieve my rental car and head out on a two-hour drive to Tucson.  The weather is a welcome change from New York, where it was 45 degrees and raining when I left, but it is rather odd to see Halloween decorations dotting the desert landscape.  I pull in to a gas station to buy something to drink, finding myself next door to a farm stand with pumpkins that are practically melting in the sun.  I browse, passing some apples that are rapidly growing brown and mushy; not exactly a festive look.

More encouragingly, the food mart at the gas station is stocked with all sorts of treats that aren't available in New York.  I immediately grab a package of Red Vines and then notice that I'm far enough west to buy Chocodiles.  I'm tempted, but at 240 calories for a single 'dile, I'm going to skip the nostalgic experience of sinking my teeth into a chocolate-coated sugar log.  (Allowing me to also skip the nostalgic experience of growing into a big fat pig.)  I can't however, bypass the next thing I see: Mexican Coke.

Now, while there are plenty of people who enjoy a little Coke from Latin America, I am here to tell you that there is nothing better than Mexican Coca-Cola.  American bottling companies stopped using real sugar in Coke years ago, replacing it with the omnipresent high fructose corn syrup.  Since corn syrup is so commonly used as a sweetener, generally successfully, you wouldn't think there's a dramatic difference.  However, the Mexican coke, made with real cane sugar, tastes sharper and crisper and altogether more "real."  I'd buy a second one, but in terms of calories I've already poured almost an entire Chocodile down my throat.

The drive passes relatively quickly (am I the only one who can't drive through the Arizona desert without singing the theme song from Alice?) and I get to Tucson around mid-day.  Tucson is a rather interesting city - the old city and downtown area are more than a century old and include a presidio, a Spanish mission that dates to a time when this land was part of Mexico. However, the farther east you go, the newer the city becomes; it's laid out on a grid, mostly strip malls and chain restaurants with subdivisions beyond.  Tucson sits at the foothills of the Catalina mountains, and nearly every vista includes a view of the mountains.   The overall effect is kind of like being in L.A., driving down La Cienega towards West Hollywood.

With less charm.

After pulling off the freeway and passing downtown, I look for a place to grab some lunch.  I forgo a Sonic Burger which was offering a Captain Lou Albano special (what would that be?  200 pounds of meat, topped with ham?)  I also notice a place called "Mostly Bears" and assume it means something different than it would if it were on Christopher Street in the Village.  I'm thinking a trip inside wouldn't result in a hairy muscle boy and a beer, but rather some awful stuffed animal with long blonde hair and fake fingernails called "Bearbra Streisand."

I almost stop at a pizza place that looked good, but it was next door to a store that advertised "Guns: Bought and Sold."  Across the street from a school.


I settle on Sunflower Market, sort of a Whole Foods copycat,  where I spent less than $5 on a turkey sandwich, two apples, and some cashews (retrieved from a barrel!)  I did manage to control myself and avoid the plastic pails of Salt Water Taffy (an interesting option in a completely landlocked state) which included such Autumn flavors as Candy Corn, Caramel Apple, and Pumpkin.  Now, we've already established that I'm such a sucker for seasonal treats that I'll even embrace the questionable Christmas Tree-Peep, but pumpkin flavored candy is a bridge too far for me.  Peppermint chocolates at Christmas, heart-shaped cookies in February, I'm there, but when they start putting gingerbread inside M&Ms or making everything taste like pumpkin, you've lost me.

And, I'm sorry, but Candy Corn taffy is just trying too hard.  Apart from the three-colored appearance, it's just going to taste like sugar.  (Or, more accurately, high fructose corn syrup.)

For dinner, I'm craving Mexican.  I love Mexican food and this place is so close to Mexico that I've already seen three INS Border Patrol cars.

The local magazine in my room offers little guidance (one of the restaurants it lists under "Mexican" is Chili's) so I check out a couple of websites and decide on El Charro Cafe, a family owned restaurant with four locations in the Tucson area.

My waiter couldn't answer tell me if the Tortilla soup was the kind that looks like yellow chicken broth with vegetables, a creamy chowder-like soup, or a red broth with tortilla strips and chicken (which is the kind I like), so I opt for a pork pozole, followed by enchiladas mole clasico.  Well, I thought that'd be the order, but they all came out together.  No matter, I think, until I taste the soup and find it barely room temperature (which is disappointing since it's 90 degrees outside but 50 degrees inside.)  I sent it back and rapidly realize I'm going to be eating it for dessert.  My enchiladas, however, are delicious.  The mole is a little more watery than I prefer, but it's otherwise delicious, the poblano and chocolate and cinnamon and sesame and spices very well balanced.  With a little heat, the pozole isn't bad, either, though it has too many peppers in it, and they're a little slimy.

After a long Monday working with my client (who is really awesome by the way - and I love this project) I head out to a restaurant called Montana Avenue, which had been recommended by several people.  It's a beautiful restaurant - modern decor in reclaimed wood and steel beams, with an outdoor patio whose centerpiece is an indoor/outdoor fireplace.  The overall effect is similar to that of modern hotels like the W or the Morgans Group (The Clift, in San Francisco.)

My server guided me to a Pinot/Merlot blend that was interesting, but a little too acidic.  The best way to describe it is to say it went in smooth but went down hard.  (The jokes here are way too obvious, so just make your own.)  I ordered a barbecue pork tenderloin, which was expertly cooked, tender and tangy, the acid balanced by a macaroni and cheese and roasted broccoli (the broccoli was in the mac'n'cheese, which wasn't clear from the menu and was kind of surprising, but it worked.)  The macaroni wasn't nearly as good as Neil's (and, no, you're still not getting that recipe) but it wasn't bad.  I enjoyed my meal about 30 feet away from a table where an older man with an exceedingly phlegmatic hacking cough kept trying to expel a lung, which was not exactly the dinner music I had planned.  It's hard to enjoy eating a pig when you're concerned about swine flu.

Dessert, however, replaced my concerns with delight: a warm cinnamon sugared doughnut served with a side of vanilla custard topped with a red fruit marmalade.  Other than pointing out that blackberries and blueberries aren't red fruits, there is nothing else I can criticize about this dessert.  Crusty on the outside, doughy and airy on the inside, sweet and chewy and delicious dipped in the custard, I had to exercise a ridiculous amount of self control to avoid eating the entire doughnut (which was easily 7 inches in diameter.)  I then did something I have never, in 37 years, done.  I took the rest of the dessert home.

It was my reward after running 5 miles on Tuesday morning to eat another piece of that donut, and I'm glad I did, as Tuesday was something of a disappointment food-wise.  I took another stab at Mexican and headed downtown for dinner, to the legendary Cafe Poca Cosa.  Well, it used to be legendary, before it moved from a quaint little house to a space below a parking structure.  I'm not kidding - I drove past it four times before I realized that the entrance was the door 100 feet from the self-pay station.

At the bar, I was guided to an excellent tempranillo-granache blend by Red Guitar, easily one of the best wines I've ever had.  At Cafe Poca Cosa, the menu changes throughout the day, and is presented on a blackboard by your server.  Or it's supposed to be, if he ever shows up.  After 10 or 15 minutes at my table in the far corner of the restaurant (a wall on one side and a curtain on the other, it was like being seated in the shower), one finally deposited a blackboard on an easel in front of me, then dashed away.  Since the preparation of most of the dishes requires, apparently, an explanation, I was left in the lurch.  Another 10 minutes or so later and I'm finally given a performance of What We're Cooking and decide on the Chicken Mole (I know - again - but I really like Mole and I'd heard theirs was really authentic.)

It is - it was, perhaps, one of the best Oaxacan Moles I've ever eaten that wasn't prepared by Rick Bayless.  The problem was everything else.  There wasn't much chicken, the dish was served on an enormous plate overflowing with salad and fruit (fruit?) and delivered with a plate of tortillas, a plate of rice, a plate of charro beans.  I felt like I was in that scene in European Vacation where Dana Hill is dreaming about all the rich european food she keeps getting served to a point well past gluttony.

It was just too much.

Wednesday was a rerun of my Tuesday lunch spot (Baggins, because your lunch comes - wait for it - in a bag) and El Charro with my client (Fajitas - not bad, and a couple of Corona, which I needed at that point.)

And yesterday I headed home.  I contemplated bringing back a Chocodile for Neil, but it just would have gotten all squished and eaten. (Hee.)

There's nothing fun to report about air travel these days.  Phoenix Sky Harbor has relatively little in the way of food options after you pass through security, so I knew my lunch was going to be the apple in my coat pocket, the nuts and wasabi peas I dug out of a barrel at Sunflower, and those animal crackers they give you on JetBlue.  It's really the perfect diet to accompany two episodes of Law and Order SVU and half of The Devil Wears Prada (don't we all get just a little tingly in our happy place when Meryl Streep glares at Anne Hathway and tells her that the belt is cerulean?; don't we all just root for little Anne when she doffs her bulky poly-blend sweaters for Chanel?).  Whatever, it was better than four hours of The Real Housewives of Atlanta (I bet they could pick up another half a million viewers or so if they called it Crazy Chicks in Wigs.)

Ooh - I also watched Paula Deen make some chocolate covered coconut candies I'm DYING to try today.

Neil greeted me with a hot meal - cuban style chicken with olives and capers, black beans, and acorn squash - which was somehow perfect despite a week's worth of latin and southwestern food already in my stomach.  Here's the recipe, it's adapted from Fine Cooking:

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 1/2 pounds chicken thighs
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion — finely chopped
1 red or green bell pepper — finely chopped
4 cloves garlic — minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro (to 1/3 cup)
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup canned tomato sauce
1/3 cup chopped olives
2 tablespoons drained capers
1/4 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup red wine

Mix the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika on a plate. Dredge the chicken thighs in the flour mixture and shake off any excess. In a heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat and cook the chicken in batches (so it’s not crowded) until lightly browned on all sides.
Transfer the chicken to a platter and drain off any fat left in the pan.  Add the rest of the olive oil, the onion, and the bell pepper to the pan. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add the garlic, oregano, and cilantro, season well with salt and pepper, and continue to cook for about 15 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, olives, capers, raisins, and wine. (If you prefer a bit more sauce, add a little chicken broth or water, but not wine, which would make it too acidic.)  Return the chicken to the casserole with any accumulated juices. Stir to coat the chicken with the sauce; cover and simmer until the thighs are completely tender when pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 


DO THIS, New York:
If you're ever in Tucson, eat at El Charro.  It's a little like a chain, but it's pretty good.  Also, eat at Montana Avenue and get that doughnut.

Makes that Cuban Chicken Stew - it's really delicious.  I'm about to eat it for lunch.  Because, if  I don't, Neil will be very angry with me.

DON'T DO THIS, New York:
You can skip Cafe Poca Cosa.  And any restaurant under a parking structure.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Couch Potato Wisdom

Ever need a day where you don’t get off the couch?

Me too.  And I was planning to have one on Friday, but it didn’t quite work out that way.  Somehow I wound up doing laundry and going to the store and cleaning the bathroom.  Your basic Cinderella routine, minus the glass slipper (too binding.)  I already have my Prince Charming – who is usually Price Charmless – but this morning he was in such a good mood I was worried he’d had a stroke.  Then I remembered how much we drank the night before, so I had my explanation (and you have yours, as to why I wanted a day on the couch.)

I also had, like, 100 hours of Tivo to clean up.  We almost never watch stuff during its scheduled airtime, resulting in a weekly backlog of shows that either needs to be watched or deleted before it explodes.  (I have visions of the Top Chef kitchen and the cast of How I Met Your Mother spilling out of the cable box into the living room.)

Between magazines and TV shows, I’m seriously considering becoming a shut-in.

For dinner, we met our friend Tim from Buffalo who’s moving to New York next month.  He just found an apartment, so we went to celebrate his new home and new job.  We went down to the Lower East Side to Rayuela.  Neil’s been eager to try this Pan-Latin restaurant, and this seemed like the perfect time.

The décor is modern and the entry area and bar offers comfortable room for having a drink before dinner.  The host was friendly without being overly solicitous, though it seemed odd he felt the need to tell us about missing his trip to Provincetown this past summer.  If he were trying to find a way to communicate his sexuality, he could have just let his outfit do the talking.  That, or the long leering look he kept giving Neil.  If you’ve ever seen a Bugs Bunny cartoon where the fat guy and the skinny guy are stranded on a desert island, and the fat guy looks at the skinny guy and thinks he sees a hot dog, then you know the look I’m talking about.

No matter, I know whom my husband is going home with, and I turned my attention to my drink, which was exceptionally well made.  One benefit of most Latin American cuisines is that the prevalence of lime in the flavor profiles of the food means it’s likely they regularly use fresh lime juice as opposed to Rose’s. 

The dining room is generously spread out over two levels, and the cushioned seating is soft.  However, the downstairs dining area is a mixture of low, wide benches against the walls, and stools on the opposite side of the table, meaning diners either have no back support, or have to lounge like Cleopatra.

I started with a salad of roasted pear, served with baby greens, walnuts and a Cabral bleu cheese.  The pear, seasoned with cinnamon and Chinese five-spice, was delicious and the salad – overall – was expertly dressed, avoiding the death by drowning that seems to befall most salads.

My entrée was a loin of pork in a soy ginger reduction served atop quinoa.  The pork, cooked to a perfect medium rare, was tender and moist, and the sauce was delicate and tangy. 

On Saturday, I finally did get my day on the couch, and it’s time to share with you the contents of my Tivo.  Here’s what we watch, with a handy day of the week guide, so you can set your DVR:


How I Met Your Mother – One of the few three-camera ensemble comedies to survive the dearth in sitcoms we seem to be slowly easing out of.  Neil Patrick Harris pretty much steals the show here, though most of the ensemble is strong, and the characters are eccentric enough to be caricatures of people you’d really know.  The weakest links: Josh Radnor as Ted is almost too much of a simpering sap for anyone to care where his journey for love ends.  And the eponymous Mother hasn’t made an appearance, which is fine – but since the show is told in flashback, they keep bumping up the year Ted’s talking to his kids so their ages don’t seem implausible. 

The Big Bang Theory – My first season with this one, so it may not stick, but Jim Parsons delivers on the true meaning of comedy by fully committing to a character that marches to a totally different drummer.  Socially awkward and completely oblivious, he’ll protest the serving of French Toast on “Oatmeal Day,” then, after conceding how good it smells, throw it out anyway.

House – It’s hard to make an unlovable character embraceable, but Hugh Laurie does it every week, bringing laugh out loud sarcasm and dry wit to a misanthropic character.  It works for two reasons: he’s so well written that you get to see glimpses of the fear, compassion, need, generosity and altruism buried there, and Laurie’s tour de force performance which alternately reveals and hides them.

Weeds and Nurse Jackie (currently on hiatus until 2010) – You know us gays – we love our damaged women.  No one’s doing damaged better than Mary Louise Parker as a suburban widow turned pot dealer turned cartel mule turned wife of a Mexican Mafia kingpin.  Her kids keep saying her luck’s bound to run out, but no one moves passive-aggressively through adversity – iced latte in hand – like MLP.  Edie Falco’s giving her a run for her money, though, with her brilliant portrayal of an E/R nurse on the edge – raising two daughters with her husband while snorting pills supplied by her lover.  The best part – the show hasn’t given in to the temptation to justify or explain her behavior.   Sooner or later, they’ll have to, but a complicated character that doesn’t telegraph the reason for every action is impossible to stop watching.


Melrose Place – Version 2.0 won’t need a clumsy first season to bring on the suds, and this show has something for everyone who loves a little nighttime soap opera: For the purists, characters for the original keep popping in, from Sydney and Michael to Jane and (soon, YAY!) Amanda.  For the kiddies, modern storylines and a huge dose of L.A. cool, complete with location shooting.  And for anyone who likes brooding (read: shirtless) leading men: Colin Egglesfield.


Top Chef – Simply the best.  The Emmys may go to Amazing Race, the ratings may go to Survivor and American Idol, but the coolest, classiest, and most fun reality competition program on the air is Top Chef.  Six seasons in and they still haven’t run out of crazy challenges or interpersonal drama (is Robin getting a pass because she had cancer?  Are the hot chef brothers more rivals than friends?)

Glee – OK, I haven’t watched this since the pilot (after which I downloaded the cast’s version of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’) but I’m accruing the episodes on my DVR.  When I’ve cleaned up everything else, and have a snowy afternoon on the couch – I’m going for it.

The New Adventures of Old Christine – On a laughs-per-minute basis, the funniest show on television, and I am so glad CBS stuck with this show long enough for it to build a following.  The strongest comedy ensemble on network television – hands down.  Julia Louis Dreyfus is unafraid to play her role without a shred of vanity, allowing her character to be sloppy, unintelligent, arrogant, careless and unjustifiably indignant at the smallest slights.  She’s made a petty shrew of a character someone you want to cheer for, and surrounded her with the tart Wanda Sykes (“If you want some of Mama’s sugar, you better bring your own spoon”), the deeply, dryly funny Hamish Linklater, and the ditsy Emily Rutherfurd whose comic timing approaches atomic-clock perfection.

Modern Family – Only three episodes in, this is the best new comedy of the season.  Three families – a nebbishy gay man with a partner and newly adopted infant, his sister and her more nuclear family, and their father – complete with a Latina second wife and her fey, sensitive son.  If it weren’t worth watching for Jesse Tyler Ferguson (The Class) and Ed O’Neill (Married with Children), here’s a bonus: Shelley Long as the matriarch and Ed’s first wife.

American Idol (begins 2010) – Yeah, I’ll miss Paula’s brand of drug-addled crazy (remember when she was accused of “helping” a contestant; anyone else think she may have done it?  Yeah, me too.) and I’m beginning to think Randy Jackson has fewer phrases than a Magic 8 Ball, but I inevitably become addicted season after season.  I’m looking forward to the addition of Ellen DeGeneres (c’mon, you know she’s going to be kind, but also really funny.) 

Plus, the contestants get me every year.  There’s nothing like watching some yahoo cracker from BFE find her voice in front of 30 million people.  Ever notice how they all start out looking like extras from Little House on the Prairie or the Lost Boys, and end up looking like a Vogue spread.  Any show that can turn Clay Aiken into a human being of any discernible sexuality gets my vote, and it should get yours, too (Please call or text it to 1-888-IDOLS01.)


Survivor: Samoa – I took, like, 14 seasons off from Survivor.  I simply couldn’t watch people drop weight and add scabs while lying on some remote beach plotting each other’s demise.  The challenges got predictable (eat gross stuff; run through a maze collecting puzzle pieces and do a puzzle; or the dreaded: stand-here-with-your-hand-on-an-inanimate-object-until-you’re-the-last-one) and so did the outcome. Recent seasons, however, have been re-energized – cross-tribal alliances, completely insane contestants (Coach, from Tocantins, anyone?) and unexpected twists.  This season, the addition of a truly bat-shit crazy Cajun, who hasn’t said a single honest thing all season, has made Survivor event television.

FlashForward – My favorite new show of the season and the best new drama.  The entire world (almost) blacks out for 2 minutes, 17 seconds, each having a vision of the same day – April 29, 2010.  It has to be set in L.A. – that’s the only place people ever dream about the first night of May Sweeps.  I love a complicated plot – but shows with mythologies require a commitment, and pretty much demand you see every episode.  It’s a fine structure for a novel, but difficult in a television series which remains open-ended.  Look no further than Heroes for an example of a show with a great concept for a single season that faltered thereafter.  I hope they have a clear vision of where they’re going and how they’re getting there.

Lost (returns 2010) – Perhaps the best television series of the past decade; a complex multi-character time-bending epic.  Recalling (and embedding) the great works of fiction across media – books, television, film, popular culture – Lost offers ruminations on life’s great questions while delivering a pot-boiling story in which you can simply get, well, lost.


The last good thing to air on a Friday night was Dallas.  Or The Dukes of Hazzard.




Yeah, I know – everyone says the Amazing Race.  I have an on and off again relationship with it; some seasons I’m in, some seasons I’m out.  It just isn’t grabbing me yet this year.  Deal with it.  I’m more into:

Desperate Housewives:  Let’s get a few things straight: the last Teri Hatcher performance I enjoyed was in the movie SoapDish, when she played Dr. Monica DeMonaco while wearing a cocktail dress and drinking three fingers of scotch.  On DH I think she just looks pathetic and crazy.  But I cannot resist Marcia Cross (really, she’s been my girlfriend since she blew up 4616 Melrose Place in 1995.)  Meanwhile, Felicity Huffman is giving her best television performance to date (on film it’s Transamerica) as she struggles to accept a pregnancy she doesn’t want, and I’ll watch Drea De Matteo (Adrianna, from The Sopranos) in anything.  Oh, and if you want to think about how many more years you’ll be going to the gym, check out a shirtless Richard Burgi in this season’s second episode, then remember that he’s over 50. 

Brothers and Sisters:  My first season with the Walkers.  This show is written and executive produced by a guy I went to college with, and he was a brilliant writer back then.  It’s mostly soapy fluff (and between the tone of the show and the presence of Patricia Wetting and Ken Olin, might as well be called familysomething) but it’s soapy fluff done well.  Kevin wants a baby, Kitty’s got cancer, and Justin’s getting married.  Bring your tissues and cry along with Nora – the always marvelous, always weepy and steely at the same time – Sally Field.

And there is one more shows I’m going to have to add, if my flight today is any indication:

Million Dollar Listing – This show may be about the three people in the world least deserving of being broadcast.  I can’t tell you why this show works, only that I’m totally driven to watch it so I can root for them to fail.  Three L.A.-area real estate brokers, Chad, Madison (it’s a boy – sort of) and another one (Jason, maybe?) drive expensive cars around L.A. and sell houses. 

There is no reason it should be entertaining at all.  The highlight of the episode I saw was when Chad – who has to at least be in his mid-twenties but looks about 14 – prepped a property for an open house by constantly adjusting three strands of hair and looking in the mirror.  Then no one showed up.  I have never gotten so much joy out of a total stranger’s disappointment. 

Madison is an angular, queeny priss of a thing who works in Malibu and spent the episode turning up his nose at things, driving around in a BMW 7 Series, and trying to get an exclusive listing from some sex author.  She was easily over 50, with the body of a 25 year old.  Seriously – she had more fiberglass and silicone than the BMW. 

The last one, Jason, was that weird kind of skinny-fat.  Like, he wasn’t large, but he wore clothing that was clearly too tight, so his shirt strained and the buttons gaped and his pants looked all wrong,   All the fabric looked like it was pulled tightly against his mushy flesh and the overall effect was sort of hypno-nauseating.  He sold a small cottage in Beverly Hills (not even the tony section, but the flats) with water damage.  For $3.5 million.

I’m hooked.

And in case you’re wondering what I don’t or won’t watch – here’s the short list:

Mad Men.  I know.  It’s terrific.  Everyone loves it.  It’s filled with parables and cautionary tales.  Whatever – I can’t commit to another drama.

Any reality show about hairdressers, interior designers, “lifestyle consultants” or other form of stylist. 

Grey’s Anatomy.  I’m sure it’s good; I just can’t watch Ellen Pompeo.  Something about her is so off-putting to me, and I can’t figure it out.

NCSIS & Order:SVUCI Las York.  Whatever.  O. Ver. It.

The Real Housewives of Anywhere.  If I wanted to watch a bunch of lazy, hateful, status-obsessed people sit around and snipe at each other, I’d throw a family reunion.

(Just an update, I’m writing this on a plane, with the Food Network on DirecTV.  Sandra Lee has just produced a chicken dish, smashed potatoes, pasta with garlic bread, peach mug pie (meaning, it’s served in a glass coffee mug) and a caramel coffee cocktail.  Did she used to cook for Bennigan’s?  Seriously, I love me some Food Network, and I’m all for using a shortcut here and there (see my post about making the Barefoot Contessa’s Chicken and Dumplings with Pillsbury Pop’n’serve Dough) but this is a bit ridiculous. 

And she was followed by Rachael Ray, who decided to forgo hamburgers for hot dogs.  I’m sorry, but this can’t even be called cooking because these are ALREADY COOKED.  She’s just heating them up.  That doesn’t count.

Hey – at least it’s a break from the endless coverage of that Balloon Boy hoax – brought to you by the fame whores who were on Wife Swap.  Twice.  So you know they’re classy.  Seriously, when your whole plot to get on TV again hinges on synchronizing your story with a six-year old: get help.)

Last night we had a delicious dinner, one of the top three dinners Neil has ever made for me: French Onion Salisbury Steak, Macaroni and Cheese and Mashed Cannellini Beans over spinach.  You’re not getting the Mac and Cheese recipe.  It’s the best I’ve ever eaten and some things need to be sacred.  But the Salisbury Steak came from Cuisine at Home.  It’s all over the internet, and it’s terrific.  It’s a little complicated, but it only takes half an hour to make.

1 1/4 lb. ground chuck
1/4 c. fresh minced parsley
2 TBS. scallion, minced
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 TBS. all-purpose flour
2 TBS. olive oil
2 cups onions, sliced
1 tsp. sugar
1 TBS. garlic, minced
1 TBS. tomato paste
2 cups beef broth
1/4 cup dry red wine
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
4 tsp. minced, fresh parsley
4 tsp. Parmesan cheese, shredded

Combine chuck, parsley, scallion, salt and pepper. Divide evenly into 4 portions and shape each into 3/4"-1" thick oval patties. Place 2 TBS. flour in a shallow dish; dredge each patty in flour. Reserve 1 tsp. flour.

Heat 1 TBS. oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add patties and saute 3 minutes on each side, or until browned. Remove from pan.

Add onions and sugar to pan; saute 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and tomato paste; saute 1 minute, or until paste begins to brown. Sprinkle onions with reserved flour; cook 1 minute. Stir in broth and wine, then add the salt and thyme.

Return meat to pan and bring soup to a boil. Reduce soup by about one-third.  Serve steaks with sauce spooned on top.

I brought home dessert – a cupcake from Crumbs on Amsterdam Avenue – purchased from the most cheerful bakery clerk I ever met.  That’s an attitude adjustment I could learn from; if I worked in the cupcake place I’d be, all, “I suck.  All I do is work in a stupid cupcake place.”  But this girl was, like, “Wow!  I sell cupcakes which make people happy!  This is great!”

Oh – and the corn is back.  Those waxy yellow corn I was curious about.  They appeared in a bulk bin at the candy store on Broadway, as part of something called Halloween Delux Mix.  Why are they lemon?

Anyway, Neil’s dinner was delicious and kept me full and satisfied well into the morning, which came in handy on my flight out west.  I’ll avoid standard airplane humor but I will tell you three things:

  1. The married couple behind me – the one where the wife said, upon finding their seats, “I’m not sitting in the middle again.  I’m not doing it!” and then ended up in the middle seat for 5 hours – yeah, they’re getting divorced someday. Soon.  I always take the middle seat.  Here’s my marital advice: Dude, take the middle seat.  Lady, shut up.
  2. Those Stella Doro Breakfast Treats are better than I remember.
  3. I love JetBlue, but I may never forgive them for making it seem acceptable for people to fly in track suits and flip-flops.

Next time: 4 days in Tucson – Mexican Coke (the soda), Candy Corn Taffy (ugh) and a Lou Albano Special at the Sonic Burger.  Seriously.


DO THIS, New York:
Comese a Rayuela!  Ole!

You’ll probably never watch my whole list of shows, but the ones you’re probably skipping and should be watching at How I Met Your Mother and Old Christine. 

Make that Salisbury Steak

DON’T DO THIS, New York:

No flip-flops at 30,000 feet, please.
Don’t call it cooking if you’re just heating up hot dogs.
Take the fucking middle seat.  J