Category Archives: Living the disaster

Have cheese, will travel.

Did I mention that I hate flying? I also hate waiting to fly and being stuck on a plane in general. So right now, as I’m sitting on my American Airlines flight at the gate, where I’ve been sitting for almost 45 minutes, I’m about as annoyed as I can get short of someone putting their finger near my face and repeating, “I’m not touching you. I’m not touching you,” over and over again.

I’m going to see my Grandpa-in-law, aka “Grandpa Lvoff,” aka just “Grandpa.” For all intents and purposes, I think of him as that relative I didn’t get by blood, but always wanted. He’s just a grand and dapper man who has enveloped me with warmth from the first moment that I met him. Like all good grandfathers, he has the best stories that weave through decades, wars, countries, languages (consider him a walking Rosetta Stone), triumph, love, and heartache. His wingspan is enormous, making his hugs that much more prolific, and he has that faint, dusty cologne smell that I adore so much.

It’s been a tough year for him and this is the first time my husband and I will be seeing him in 2009, which is awful since it’s almost over. I’ve loaded my bag with 2-year Comte (oh hello delcious, nutty, pineapplely, french onion soup in a cheese wedge) and Tomme Crayeuse (what? did you say something about a rough, nut-skin-flavored natural rind protecting both pliable and cakey layers of savory yet balanced cheese goodness?) and many a Francois Pralus dark chocolate to pamper our Grandpops with. Oh yeah, and I got him a Murray’s-made Ring Ding which I can’t wait for him to try. They’re my obsession and I try not to indulge in one daily…

So, add to the fact that I am now pusing almost an hour sitting on this damn plane to my concern for the well-being if my precious cheese cargo, and that every minute delay is keeping me from a Grand-diddy huggle, and I am about to rage blackout in this piece! Luckily, I did think ahead. I brought 2 extra Ring Dings. I may ben give one to my husband, but it’s best to first eat one and then see how I feel. He’d agree that if my rage isn’t significantly quelled by the first Ring Ding, I’d best partake in another… It’s for the good of group.

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The French-colonized part of me wants to put up the white flag

Oh. Dear. God. Somebody please make this week end.  When I decided to take on a job helping to organize guest chefs for the fabulous New York Culinary Experience event, I thought, “How bad could it be?”  That should have been my first clue.  From now on, I will only take on jobs where I’m filled with anxiety and trepidation from the mere mention of the opportunity.

So far, I’ve gotten yelled out 3 times by 3 separate guest chefs, all for different reasons.  My coworkers warned me that this would happen as the event drew near (it’s this weekend), but I thought, “No way!  Couldn’t happen!  Not to me!”  Well…  obviously I seem to have some sort of reasoning disability.  My coworkers keep reminding me that these chefs aren’t yelling at me specifically, that they’re just venting their frustrations and stress.  That’s grrreat.  You know what, though?  No matter what anyone tells you, getting yelled at just isn’t fun.  This is like when my mom told me, “Mindy, someday when you go to give birth, the doctors will tell you that contractions are a good pain.  That’s a lie.  Pain is pain.  It’s not good.”

So consider this week 7 days of labor after a particularly difficult pregnancy.  Hopefully, at the end of it, I will have given birth to a beautiful event.

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Speaking of cheese…

Good news, peoples!  Back by popular demand, the dynamic duo of Suarez & Peck (of Beer Experiment fame) are giving us another opportunity to food fight for glory: The Brooklyn Cheese Experiment.  And whoa – that segue was so opportune that you KNOW I didn’t plan it.  I am just not that slick.

Mark your calendars and buy your tickets now for September 13th at the Bell House in Brooklyn.  I can’t say it enough times: BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!  At the Beer Experiment, I literally had to count how many people were in line with tickets and without and then had to advise those without to maybe stroll around the block a few times until a portion of the 300 ticket holders tired out and left, thereby making room.  Of course, waiting for people to tire out in the middle of a lazy Sunday afternoon when there’s mass quantities of food and homebrew to be sampled is like waiting for Godot.  So one more time: BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW! Oh, and while you’re buying your tickets, definitely include the after party in your purchase!  That’s usually where all the really good debauchery takes place.  Not that I’ll be involved (insert wide-eyed Asian girl ‘blink blink’ here) – I’m usually just an amused spectator.

I’m sure your next thought is whether or not I’ll be competing.  The answer is hells no.  If I wanted to be openly and vocally judged on how well I cook, I would either: 1) show up for work or 2) cook for my parents.  Neither of those things sound fun on a Sunday afternoon.  Besides, somebody has to roll plastic utensils in paper napkins and I already have the napkin rolling calluses needed for the job after my last production assistant gig at the Beer Experiment.  Those napkins don’t roll themselves, people!  You’re welcome!

For those of you brave cheese addicts who want to seize the chance to strut your culinary stuff, why not enter and compete???  Please let me know if you do so I can stop by, sample, and photo-blitz the hell out of your entry!  The cheese gauntlet has been thrown!  Which of you is woman/man enough to accept the challenge?!  (Er, like I said, not me, but best of luck to all of you!)  So go ahead, click on the link, enter your idea, and cue “Eye of the Tiger” and start cheese recipe creating!

Oh, quick disclaimer for those of you think that I have some sort of stake in this.  Let me assure you that like everything else in my cooking career thus far, I will be working at this event for free.  I wouldn’t want to tarnish my reputation as cheap labor!  Nope, I’m in it for the free admission and love of the game.  If you weren’t lucky enough to be at The Beer Experiment, let me just assure you that this event will INCREDIBLE.  It’s hard to get me out of my apartment on a Sunday short of leaving a cheeseburger trail out my front door.  So for me to eagerly hike it on down to Brooklyn from the boonies of the upper east side, you know this event must be special.

Ok, ok, enough with selling.  The Cheese Experiment.  September 13th.  Bell House, Brooklyn.  Be there.

BK_Cheese_Final_Lo_Res

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The journey from Stamford,CT to… Stamford, CT

Yup, that’s right.  We never made it to Guilford last night.  We were well on our way, almost halfway there (about 20 miles / 4 hours along) when all of a sudden, our engine died.  Wait, Mindy, I thought you said you were SAILING there. Yeah, well, when trying to plan a sailing trip, don’t forget to factor in an absence of wind.

No worries, we thought we could motor-sail on up the coast, covering about 5 nautical miles an hour, and have no troubles.  Our engine, 20+ years old, had different plans. Right around 1:30PM, when the wind picked up slightly and we were doing 7 nmph, thinking the world was grand and I started heading into the cabin to make sandwiches, the engine hiccuped.  It was just a brief little “sput sput” and then it kept motoring.  Yet I knew.  When you’re as prone to disaster as I am, you learn to hear and understand these tiny little changes in “the norm” and know that it’s an omen for disaster.  I was frozen, waiting to hear it again.  It didn’t come.  As soon as I relaxed, all sound stopped.  Silence.  The engine had stopped.

Luckily, disasters always come prepared.  I made Chris buy a little jumper robot to bring on the boat should JUST such an event occur.  Instead of using it right away, we turned around and headed back to Stamford.  Chris thought that it was a combo of the engine overheating and our batteries dying that killed our little sailing adventure, so he wanted to plain sail as long as possible and just use the engine for when we needed to dock.

FYI – there’s this charming little lighthouse in Darien, CT on a stone breakwall that looks absolutely lovely.  I know this because we sat on the boat and stared at it for an hour after the wind died, 5 nautical miles from home.  Stupid lighthouse.  Chris said, no, we are actually moving.  Which we were – I did time a lobster buoey take a full minute to float past our boat.  At this point, Chris shrugged his shoulders and decided it was time.  Our little, yellow, jumper robot came out of his box like a ray of sunshine and we crossed our fingers and held our breath.  Please jump the battery.  Please jump the battery.  Please jump the battery.  When we hit the ignition and starter button after 5 minutes, the engine coughed and sputtered to life like an emphazemic old man, and our little Wall-E of a jumper robot beamed with pride.

But wait!  There’s more!  Per my principle that disasters don’t travel well, here’s a list of if it could go wrong, it did go wrong:

-My blackberry died on the way to the boat, so I charged it, just so it could die again on the boat.  FYI – my phone now only works when it is plugged into an outlet (very useful…) and I can’t get a new one until August 29th.  Please don’t expect any responsiveness on my part until then.

-I placed my phone next to my husband’s, and now his cell phone will occasionally stop working and say: “SIM card error.”  Disasters are contagious

-Even though we bought a fancy GPS thingy, my husband didn’t turn it on while leaving Stamford and asked me to take the tiller as he went to boot it up.  BAM!  Apparently we sailed right over some wreckage that made a great scraping sound as we grazed it with the keel.  After my husband turned on the GPS, which I’m surprised he could manage while laughing hysterically at my shock and rage, he choked out through his laughter: “Look! I can show you what you hit on the GPS!”  Very funny.

-Tried to buy vodka at 8:30AM in Connecticut.  Apparently you can’t do that.  In NYC, we honor our alcoholics and sell them alcohol at anytime!

-Need to remember to dock down the carpet in the cabin so that when the boat is heeling at an angle and you step on the rug, you don’t slide on it and land on your butt the way that I ALWAYS do.

-Figured out how to flush the boat toilet… that doesn’t sound like a disaster, but it’s not fun, people.

-Basically bruised most of my body by whacking into blocks, winches, etc. on the boat

Good news is that Bisou Basil made the trip, survived the trip, and somehow grew to twice his size from thriving on ocean air.  I plan to prune him a little tonight for a nice buffalo caprese salad.

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    A Three Hour Tour…

    I am writing this the night before setting out on a great “adventure,” as my husband calls it.  This post will go live tomorrow at noon, which means that as you are reading this, I will be sailing up the coast of Connecticut to a town called Guilford, where we will dock and spend the night before heading on to Fishers Island.  What do I know about sailing?  Nothing.  What does my husband know about sailing?  Less than I thought he did when he convinced me to spend our one week of vacation a year on this little sailing trek.

    What’s funny about this is that when my husband first purchased this boat with his dad earlier in the year on the cheap, we had one little agreement: this was his thing, not mine, and while I would definitely share this hobby with him to some extent, this was NOT to become a major part of my life.  Yet somehow, we have spent almost every free weekend of the summer out on our little red boat, cruising around the sound.  Oh, and when you buy a boat on the cheap, be prepared for little “quirks.”  Engine trouble makes it sound like an occasional occurrence…  It’s more like sometimes we luck out and have Engine Startage.  “Oh yeah, had a great day on the boat although we did have a little Engine Startage.”

    And in case you missed it, I hate commuting by any means.  So when you turn my vacation into ALL commute, well…  let’s just say that I love my husband and this seems to be the only way to repay him for dealing with the joy that is me, a gift that never stops giving.  When he first proposed the trip, my husband said it would be an 8-hour sail.  When I seemed at peace with that, the time went up to 12.  Then to 15.  Now 20.  Each way.  Do the math, that’s 40 hours worth of sailing.

    I will be basically useless on the boat as well.  I don’t sail and I certainly don’t navigate.  I can barely make it around the city without having to pull up Google maps on my blackberry.  When we first moved to the city, my friend, Eunice, basically had to give me step-by-step subway and turn-by-turn walking directions before every night out on the town (of course I was always late, underestimating the time it would take to both get ready and arrive at the location).

    Why will I be on this boat?  Well, I’m going to keep my husband company and if the seas get rough, you can bank on the fact that my sarcasm will get rougher.  Luckily, my angelic husband seems to find my sarcasm amusing and charming, which is why I married him, since most everyone else usually finds it annoying and distasteful.  Basically, I’m comic relief and entertainment for our more than 20 hour trek.  And with my recent poundage, I’m starting to become the Skipper to my husband’s Gilligan.

    I’m also in charge of boating snacks:)  Now we’re talking!  Although I’m trying to keep it as non-potentially-stomach-irritating as possible since we try to keep the boat’s head (aka potty) to emergency use only.  Translation: I’m going easy on the cheese this time around and only packing something mild… like a nice Comté or Emmental.  Actually, chèvre usually agrees with me as well…  Ok, so 3 cheeses!  And some cured meats, maybe… some briney olives would be nice… can’t have saucisson sec without cornichons, either.  And vodka – which can be used as a disinfectant!  Or a sedative/anti-anxiety beverage should I forget how much I love my husband along the sail…

    I will also be bringing with me my basil plant, à la Waterworld.  It will be nice to have a little land with me since I am definitely a land-lover, but more importantly, Bisou Basil (named after my now favorite macarons from Bisousciao) is the first plant that I haven’t killed.  In fact, my little Bisou Basil is THRIVING!  Of course, now that I’ve gone and put my foot in my mouth…

    So when we were about to leave the apartment (which is already occupied as we usually have boarders even when we’re there), I quickly ran back for my little BB.  Yes, I could leave him to be cared for by others, but it’s hard for me to ask people to sing to him (yup, it’s a him) everyday for fear that they’ll think I’m a lunatic… ok, even MORE of a lunatic.  And if I asked them to sing his favorite song, “You are my basil plant” (to the tune of “You Are My Sunshine”)…  Well, it was just less taxing to strap a floatie on him and take him along.  I should invent a little basil backpack carrier thing like they do for babies.

    So if I don’t tweet or post something tomorrow night letting you know that we made it to Guilford safely, please alert the Coast Guard.  A three hour tour…

     

    Bisou Basil

    Bisou Basil

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    To be young again…

    Well, I survived.  Two 16 year-olds, 3.5 days, and I lived to blog about it.  Right up until my cousin and her friend’s plane landed, I thought I was ready for parenthood.  One of my best friends is pregnant with a little bundle of adorableness and I couldn’t be anymore excited!  I thought that maybe I wouldn’t be too far behind her.  The past week has definitely opened my eyes.  Granted, when you do give birth, you usually start with a tiny bundle of softness that while physically demanding, doesn’t challenge you the way that oh… let’s say giving birth to two, fully formed 15/16 year-olds does.

    As far as teens go, mine were pretty good actually.  They could have been much worse – they could have been me.  Besides calling me old and seeming pretty blasé about everything that I find downright awesome (namely food), they never sleep.  Never.  Except in the morning when you’re trying to wake them up.  And they have their own ideas and wants, and you basically just want to cater to them and make them happy.  Yup, that’s the one thing that very few people tell you.  Kids, babies, teens, whatever – they have some sort of magical ability to make you want to make them happy.  Normal adults?  Who the hell cares!  I very rarely care about making most people happy, especially since most people (outside of my awesome friends) piss me off on a daily basis (I’m talking about you Miss Rude Subway-rider).  My cousin was actually pretty easy-going, but every once-in-a-while, her friend would pop off some comment that was so rude and smart-ass-like that I didn’t know whether to laugh at her gall or throw a soup dumpling at her (which, FYI, she didn’t find very impressive).  Yet, she was still so adorable that I found myself trying to figure out what else to show her that she might enjoy a little more.  In case you’re wondering, I don’t think I found anything.

    I also realized that teenagers make you feel fat.  My cousin happens to be a rail and I kept wondering whether or not I had ever been that tiny.  I’m pretty sure not.  Her waist was smaller than anything on my body.  I could have used her stretchy belt as a headband.  And I also forgot how much you can eat when you have a teenager’s metabolism.  I eat a lot, but DAMN!  Sometimes, I almost forgot to feed them because I lost track of the time.  Oh, and that’s not the only reason I’m an unfit guardian – I cursed A LOT in front of them.  If they didn’t curse before, they’re certainly going to curse now.  In my desperate attempts to keep them happy and entertained (which I don’t think either of them were), I also fed them mass quantities of sugar.  I don’t think a single vegetable touched their lips in the 3.5 days they were with me.  Of course, they were far healthier than me, opting out of having cheeseburgers for every meal.

    And the shopping.  I ended up spending more and buying more than they did!  I try not to shop EVER because it’s tiring, time-consuming, and I just don’t have the money to burn.  Of course, when it’s your duty to take other people shopping as a good host…  Well… Do you know how much willpower it takes to NOT shop in those circumstances?  I certainly don’t because apparently, I don’t have it.  I think it’s a lot, though – much more than I can even fathom.

    So there it is: two 16 year olds, 3.5 days, an enormous credit card bill, and a weekend spent napping and sleeping like a log just trying to recover.  Maybe I should wait until my energy returns to start thinking about having my own children again.  After all, these two girls were ANGELS compared to the havoc that I wreaked upon my parents when I was their age.

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    Welcome to America! Now please start spending…

    Right now, I am on a bus headed to Woodbury Commons with my 16 year old cousin and her friend. When I picked them up from the airport yesterday, I asked them what they wanted to do while they were here – “we want to shop and we want go to Woodbury Commons!”. Screw our museums and melting pot culture, all they want is to spend our funny money.

    My cousin’s from London so Woodbury Commons is basically like shopping for free. And I guess when Europe is your playground, our “cultural” activities may seem less exciting. I’m reminded of Eddie Izzard: “I’m from Europe – you know, where all the history comes from?” She was getting organized this morning, trying to find her “American money,” and I told her she could just rip her pounds in half to use as dollars… Of course, 1 pound is a coin piece, not paper… But I have a pair of those Ginsu scissors somewhere so we should be fine.

    Her friend is from Canada and can’t wait to shop here either, which just bothers me. Am I the only one who longs for the days when the Canadian dollar was so weak that Canada was basically just one giant shopping outlet?

    I’m also missing my old Goldman paycheck right about now… Oh… the damage we could have done… Now, I’m probably going to walk out of Woodbury with a candy bar from a Kosher vending machine (my friend Angela just told me about them!) if I’m lucky… Or rather, if my husband’s lucky. I’ve actually never been before and just looked at the store list last night… Um, did you know that Williams Sonoma even HAD an outlet? Mama’s coming home with a deep fryer and an ice cream maker!!!

    FYI – the bus ticket here is $42!!! US $!!! That’s like £5. Not really, but that’s what it feels like even though the dollar is strengthening… slightly. So $42 just for the opportunity to spend even more… No roller coasters, either. Oh well, happy shopping!

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