"Awesome!" A Blog.

Monday, October 25, 2004


On my nightstand this morning when I woke up: a frozen bowl of what looks like a mushroom risotto.

The whole thing is rock hard. I'm letting it thaw so I can stir around and see if he's hidden anything in the rice.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Boston, this one's for you

A lot of people want to know what I ate while in Boston recently. Here is a short list.


Pizzeria Regina - old brick oven pizza, thin crust, in the North End. We found it on accident by following our noses off the Freedom Trail, but you should find it on purpose. Beers on tap. Homemade meatballs and sausage. Every waitress is Carla.

Ristorante Toscano - Beacon Hill. Higher-end Tuscan joint. I had a wood-grilled pork chop you could eat with a spoon. Watch out for the unpriced wines by the glass. Tuscan bread does not seem to have salt in it.

King & I - Beacon Hill. This is where you go to get the watery Thai curries and rotten fish you've been craving.

Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market - the greatest mall food court in the world, with about fifty different stalls serving regional cuisines. There's a guy shucking oysters and clams, there is a sullen man behind a pizza, there is a Pho place. I think they even have Portuguese food. I had a lobster roll the size of a spray-paint can. It's an historical tourist/school field trip destination, but don't let that dissuade you.


Greenhouse Coffee Shop in Harvard Square - This is like a Denny's, but it is a fine place for a meal. They have those round, thick waffle-cut deep-fried cottage fries. Come and watch as families eat next to greasy pre-law students. You get the sense that Kurt Vonnegut has been there.


Spike's Junkyard Dogs - a magnificent hot dog restaurant. On the side you can get either fries or "nachos," which are round chips with melted mozzarella and Hormel bean chili. There is a sink inside the actual restaurant by the tables, so you can wash your hands. I had the original "junkyard dog" with tomato, pepperoncini, scallions, ketchup, mustard, onion, relish (I think). It was on a soft roll, and way better than the nachos, which had softened into an unapproachable mass.

Redneck's - a cafeteria of deep-fried and sauced foods for the drinking times. I had the "bbq" chicken tenders which reminded me of chinese food.

Sunset Cantina - they had Hoegaarden on tap, Mako shark skewers, sweet potato fries with raspberry dipping sauce, and a lot of other Tex-Mex specialities that you can only find in New England.

Monday, October 11, 2004


I was driving home from the doctor today and I noticed a large plume of smoke rising into the air. As I got closer to our exit, the smoke seemed to be coming from our street. The closer I got to home, the more it looked like the smoke was rising directly from my roof. My growing concern amplified as I sat in the traffic jam that had formed in the area. Ducking down a few side streets got me a little closer, but then I came up against a police barricade.

Good news! It wasn't my house, it was the haunted lumberyard a few streets away. Relieved, I got some fries at Wendy's.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

"Linguini Seafood"

Our local Italian does a bang-up seafood linguini in rich marinara. For a while now I've been trying to get the balance right, and tonight I hit on it. Recipe serves 2 generously. Don't kill yourself getting the measurements precise, that is against the style. This recipe will produce tender, properly cooked shellfish in an aromatic red sauce. Except for a little olive oil and a dash of parmesan cheese, there is no fat in this dish.

Big handful bay/rock shrimp (small sweet shrimp, about the size of a quarter - these are always precooked and curled), thawed
Big handful bay/small scallops (between Chapstick lid and pool cue chalk in volume), thawed/fresh
1lb debearded mussels (only buy ones that close when you tap the shell, or, barring such invasive shopping techniques, never eat a mussel that needs to be pried open after cooking - if I can't slip the tip of my pinkie inbetween the halves, I figure it's been dead too long and wants to take me along with it)

a few tbsp olive oil
3-4 fat cloves of garlic, sliced into fingernail-thin cross-sections
sprig or two of rosemary
1 cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio (not chardonnay)
1/2 tsp dried red chili flakes
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
Ripe tomato, roughly diced (it will cook down)
handful finely chopped parsley
8 oz or so prepared basic canned marinara/italian "spaghetti sauce" (have extra? Dip your pizza crusts in it on Tuesday)

1/2 lb dried linguini


Get the water going for your pasta.

Pour a few good glugs of the olive oil into a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, chili flakes and rosemary sprig. Lightly muddle the rosemary with your wooden spoon to release its oils. Let this sizzle slowly until the garlic gets a little brown around the edges (several minutes). Add chopped tomato, stir, sauté for a few minutes. Pour in the wine, turn the heat to high, and reduce until a big whiff over the pan no longer smells like strongly evaporating alcohol (approx 5 mins - liquid should bubble rapidly).

Add your pasta to the boiling water.

After the sauce has reduced for 5 minutes, rinse the mussels under strong tap water and dump them into the boiling sauce base. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Check at 2 mins to see if at least 3/4 of them have opened. If not, check again in 30 second intervals until they have. Remove the mussels with tongs and pull the meat from the shell, placing it in a small bowl (discard the shells, which are difficult to digest). Return the sauce to a boil and stir in the prepared tomato sauce plus 1/2 the parsley. Remove the rosemary sprig and toss. Stir in the grated parmesan.

Drain the finished pasta and hold in colander.

Add the scallops to the simmering marinara, let cook for 2 mins. After 2 mins check one every 30 seconds to see if they've just cooked through (white all the way through, no translucent center). Do not overcook. Throw in thawed shrimp when scallops are almost done (they will heat through in the sauce) and stir in the linguini until coated. Throw in the mussels and a bit more parsley, toss delicately, and plate, tonging out the pasta first and then scooping out the more reluctant seafood bits on top. Hit each plate with a dusting of parsley. Et Voila.


Mussels are probably the toughest part of this if you haven't cooked them before. Cooking mussels well can take a bit of experience. Some cooks will take off the lid too early, see that none have opened, and call Poison Control. Some will burble away on their drug pipes and open the lid an hour later, only to find shells with little angry raisins inside. The ideal mussel almost has the texture and resistance of omelette egg. The rule of thumb is, never eat a mussel which hasn't opened, because they were dead too long and they contain deadly bacteria (which won't affect the rest of the mussels with whom they share a broth).

Writing shellfish recipes is difficult. This makes me want to pitch a show called, "CSI: SHELLFISH"

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

I cleaned the area to the left of my desk

There was a pile of bent paper, a picture frame, some tangled wires and a black sock. After I cleared it out, the dog immediately went there and fell asleep. She's been there for six hours.

Oh, and I found a pair of shorts that I had accused Liz of throwing away last summer because she thought I wore them too often. They still fit pretty well - I'm wearing them now. They're the perfect length, and sort of a weathered ginger brown.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Final Thoughts on my vacation to Kauai.

Grocery Stores

My wife is not fond of mayonnaise. Via some bit of genetic betrayal she has no taste for the stuff, health concerns aside. Hence, she always asks for sandwiches withouth this tangy ambrosia, mustard in its stead.

Our big plan on a lovely Kauai Saturday was to pick up some deli sandwiches and make a picnic on a lonesome stretch of beach. Spying a Safeway grocery off the side of the highway, we pulled in and drained a few off the debit card, procuring a couple deli-made six inchers, a cold Grolsch and some Tom’s of Maine Salt & Vinegar.

Having only a handful of items we made for the Express Lane, which naturally took a good fifteen minutes while what I will generously describe as an “old lady” tried to fill out an application for a Safeway Discount Club Member’s Card, all to no avail. Time and again she would write her first name in the area for the last name, or her PO Box number where the telephone number went, or accidentally underline “FOR STORE USE ONLY” rather than check “From Safeway Employee” when attempting to indicate how she had heard of the Safeway Discount Club Member’s Card. The checker, operating sans lobe, repeatedly abandoned customers who presented perfectly flawless displays of product in order to assist the failing would-be patron who had just given herself the cryptic nom de plume “PO Box 798.”

When we were finally on deck, a crotchety mother-daugher combo with cold cuts, milk, and coffee beans was presented with the opportunity to apply for a Safeway Discount Club Member’s Card, which by this point I had quietly opined should be applied for outside of anything called an “Express” lane. The women declined the offer several times, I think once in between each item that was scanned. At the conclusion of item-scanning the checker, whose face was made of fattened meat and soup-skin eyes, asked if the women would like to apply for a Safeway Discount Club Member’s Card. They curtly declined the offer, at which point the checker, in all seriousness, explained that if they filled out the application they could receive discounts on future purchases.

Not twenty-five minutes later we were strolling out of the store, picnic in hand. (The trick to our speedy checkout was that I already had a Safeway Discount Club Member’s Card, the presentation of which caused the clerk to genuinely beam.)

We got to the picturesque beach. Waves crashing, expanses of lonely sand, reels of filmic potential, the whole postcard. Unwrapping and tucking in revealed that the wife’s sandwich had a thick slick of mayonnaise on each half and no mustard, which was clearly Safeway’s way of applying the opposite of the condiments she had requested. She hated it and made a complicated job of eviscerating the fillings with a knife and fork. My sandwich, loosely Italian in theme, had been spread with that leaden sort of herby cheese which college seniors offer in small plastic tubs alongside upscale crackers and Safeway Discount Club wines during “parties.” Although no great fan of this “Atkins” diet which is going around, I mainly ate the cured meat fillings off of the Tom’s of Maine salt & vinegar chips, rather than the deadbelly bread, which had begun to give off a few unctuous lipids of its own in the direct sunlight.

We did have many good times on the island, apart from this. Top drawer were Lemongrass and Pacific Cafe in Kapaa, Brick Oven Pizza in Kalaheo, and Tomkats in old Koloa town. Bottom drawer brown star goes to the Subway where the woman who makes your sandwiches wears no gloves and has warts all up and down her arms and hands. "boo"