Category Archives: Reviews

Blaugust 2: Dali Meets Disney


I was wondering what to write about today when I saw for the second (or third) time today a link in my facebook feed for “Destino,” a short film by Disney based on a collaboration in the 1940s with SALVADOR DALI.

Watch it HERE.

Dali and Disney. Now, Disney has some weird shit going on here and there, but in general you wouldn’t think to connect them. People forget that in some ways, Walt Disney really was a visionary in the world of animation. However, he was also a capitalist and apparently, the project was abandoned because he decided it wouldn’t make enough money. An understandable but disappointing conclusion.

Luckily, some people decided to bring back the project and work off the original storyboards to make something interesting, strange, and beautiful.

It’s a surreal (obviously) and somewhat haunting animation. It reminds me that I need to bring more of the interesting, strange, and beautiful into my life. It is what appeals to me most, and what inspires me. I find that my best writing is WEIRD. And my favorite art is kind of weird. At the same time, there is a sense of beauty and elegance in the type of weirdness that I like.

It feels strange to be reminded of something that should be so obvious. I start to wonder: do we forget and come back to ourselves too many times in life? I never used to forget these things. Until I had to live in the adult, “real” world, and function to some degree like an adult. I find it exhausting, most of the time.

 

Image: By BBC, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6967852

Monday Madness: He’s stepping through the door…


This morning I started hearing a pounding. I couldn’t tell where it actually came from and it just kept going. At one point I thought someone was knocking on the back door very loudly. Then I thought someone was hammering something downstairs. Finally, when I got up and went to take a shower, I saw feet outside the window and realized that someone is working on the roof.

While this makes much more sense, I wish I had known people were going to be pounding on the roof today. It’s very distracting and I need to work.

(On a side note, I used to get ready in the morning in about 15 minutes. It takes me forever now. I miss being able to just roll out the door. Of course, I didn’t often have nice outfits on, never really wore makeup. I’d prefer to take a little more time to look put together, but I’d prefer even more to be able to look put together in just a few minutes.)

Then, after my shower, I found out that David Bowie passed away. Sometimes celebrity death rumors are false, so I didn’t believe it right away, but google confirmed it.

The world has lost an amazing talent. He has been one of my very favorite musicians for years now (although not as many as I’d like to claim, since for much of my earlier life I only knew him as the Goblin King), and although he was getting older, I’m sure he could have given us more wonderful music in his remaining years. I was unaware that he had been struggling with cancer, which makes me feel more in awe of his recent release of Blackstar. Only a true artist would be able to create a work to share with the world in such a situation.

David Bowie was truly unique, creative, and prolific (I am not sure if there’s a set number of albums he would have to reach to be prolific, but a career spanning numerous decades and more albums than most artists release, I think he deserves the term). Inspiring, impossible to ignore, and with a lot to say. The world will miss this Starman.

Homemade Pizzas of Yore


I’ve probably mentioned that one of my absolute favorite things to eat is pizza. If I really HAVE to pick a favorite food, that would be it. You can do so much with it and it just tastes SO good. I mean, do I really need to explain why I love pizza? No, I didn’t think so.

Now quite some time ago (although it was recent when I first started this post in early January), we’ve had two occasions of pizza-making gatherings at my apartment. The first time, I bought some ready-made Pillsbury pizza dough, the kind the comes in those tubes you have to break open.

We did three halves marinara and one half pesto.

We did three halves marinara and one half pesto.

 

There were two cans of dough. “Cans of dough” seems like quite a strange thing to say, don’t you think? Oh well. So, two pizzas for four people. I can’t remember if there were leftovers but considering the amount of toppings we added, there was definitely plenty to eat that night. There was chicken, chorizo, avocado, mushrooms, broccoli, cheese of course, and probably quite a few other things that I’ve forgotten by now.

 

Since one of our number was vegetarian, we made sure there were several sections without meat as we got creative with our topping combinations. As I said at the time (or something like it), one of the perks of making pizza at home is that you can do really interesting things with the toppings that would probably take fifteen minutes to fully explain if you were placing an order.

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(The kitchen light was highly uncooperative, as is my camera, so unfortunately the pictures aren’t very good.)

The instructions say to pre-bake the crusts a little. We did not do this, but we were still satisfied with the end result. For my tastes, this crust does not make the optimal pizza. It tastes almost exactly like the crescent roll dough, which is great for crescent rolls, but not the right base for pizza in my opinion. I will be much more likely in the future to buy the pizzeria-style dough that you can usually find somewhere near the deli section when I buy premade dough again. However, this Pillsbury option would be a good choice if you wanted it to be a little faster. You don’t have to let it sit out at room temperature or spend time flattening it out–just unroll and go. In that, at least, the doughboy has the advantage.

Let's not forget the wine. This bottle was pretty tasty, if my memory serves.

Let’s not forget the wine. This bottle was pretty tasty, if my memory serves.

 

The second pizza-making occurrence yielded a much more delicious result. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have any pictures–or if I do, I can’t find them. That time, one of my roommates made challah dough and we used that for the crust. That can result in a very thick crust unless someone wants to spend ages rolling it out, so if you like thin crust this might not be the way to achieve it. However, it tasted incredible. I can’t remember what we put on it anymore, but it doesn’t matter, because I remember that it was wonderful. And the lesson is to live with someone who likes making bread.

Review: Fun and Interesting Meals from Plated


On something of a whim I took advantage of an offer from this site called Plated. Buy 2 plates, get 4 free! My initial order I had to cancel, which resulted in an account credit of $70-80 after paying around $20. Not a bad deal in my book. A little later, I took advantage of that “free” money to try out the service.

I ordered two different meals/4 plates. When you’re ordering, one recipe usually makes 2 “plates” (some might make 4). The actual amount of plates would depend on how much you and/or the other people that enjoy the dish want to eat, of course. I would mostly classify the recipes as gourmet homestyle, occasionally ethnic or fusion. They send you a recipe card–more like a recipe poster–and most of the ingredients to cook it. You will probably have to supplement it with things like olive oil, butter, pepper, or other basic cooking ingredients that most people have available in their kitchen.

Although many things sounded delicious, the price was important to me (not all plates cost the same), so my final decision was tomato-braised chicken with fennel and steak gyros. Once the order shipped, it got to me overnight. Considering that some of the food they send is perishable, that’s a very good thing. I thought everything was very well-packaged and everything from my order was present and accounted for. I actually decided to do an unboxing and first impression video, which you can watch if you’re interested in this part of the process:

But I made it before I’d fully experienced my meals, so I wanted to go a little more in-depth here.

Steak Gyros: This was pretty easy to make and turned out to be delicious! I did overcook the steak just a tiny bit, as they recommend having it rare and mine was closer to medium-well, but that didn’t hurt it. It was good-quality steak and the seasonings they provided gave it a great flavor. The naans that came with the order were so tasty, I wished I had more of them. I did alter some of the side/sauce aspects of the recipe (I explain this a little in the video). Overall I was very happy with this one.

Tomato-braised Chicken with Fennel: First I should say that I HATE black licorice, and so I don’t like strong fennel flavors that much, but I love chicken, and I’ve had recipes with fennel that I did like, so I decided to try it out. This one was slightly more interesting to cook because I’ve never made fennel before. This used the leafy part as a garnish, but also the root as one of the main ingredients. Cooked in oil and tomato with a rather interesting mix of spices, I actually really liked the end result. I would have liked there to be more chicken, and I must admit I was a little disappointed by the cuts I was provided because there was a lot of fat on them. So it wasn’t perfect, but I liked the flavor of the dish. It also came with couscous, which I had never made before. That part turned out to be incredibly easy and although couscous doesn’t have much flavor on its own, I like it. Also, between the fennel bulb, a yellow onion, and the chicken, the yield for this recipe was HUGE. I’d say it could feed four people, maybe adding another side dish.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed my first experience with plated despite one or two things that weren’t perfect. (And expecting perfection is silly, really.) Promotional deal aside, this is not exactly a budget-friendly service. For the amount of food I got for the money, I probably would have been better off just getting a similar recipe and getting the ingredients myself. BUT, you’re not just paying for the food. You’re paying to have it bundled and ready to cook, as well, and for the convenience of having it delivered right to you. They also make efforts to send sustainable and ethical ingredients, which are worth paying a little extra for if you can afford it. Also, if you can’t afford to order frequently, you can always skip a few weeks to save up for your next order, but make sure you keep an eye on your account so you don’t accidentally get one when you didn’t want it. The default is every one or two weeks, depending on what you select. I’m not in a position to afford this very often right now, but I’d be interested in doing this regularly in the future, after my income grows.

Why you should try it: I think the best reason to give Plated a try (other than the great first-time deal they offer!) is to experiment with a recipe you might never have tried otherwise. I doubt I ever would have made gyros if left entirely to my own devices, and now I know I might like to use fennel in cooking other dishes. I might have done that eventually, but without this incentive I doubt it. I made the recipes on my own, but this could also be fun to do with friends and family, if you like to cook together.

If after all that you’re intrigued, and you want some free plates, use my referral link below:

https://www.plated.com/invites/7c742d

Happy cooking!

Local Brew: Downeast Cider (Updated*)


You can’t call yourself a foodie unless you have an opinion on some kind of artisanal local/lesser known microbrew. I don’t call myself a “foodie” in any case, but that is the topic of today’s post. Specifically, I’m going to throw my hat into the ring (I don’t even know if that’s the right use of that phrase…) regarding Downeast, which is a brand I have personally enjoyed.

Since it’s now officially been fall for over a week, the general desire for cider here in New England will do its usual turn up to 11 (yes, I just made the Spinal Tap reference. Side note: Spinal Tap would be a great name for a bar or pub. A skeleton bar?). And while I’ve enjoyed regular old apple cider both cold and hot for as long as I can remember, since I became a legal drinker I have also favored alcoholic ciders. I’ve had many different brews, so I have some experience with them–but this is purely my own opinion of the beverage, so I guess you’ll have to get some to judge for yourself.

I first had Downeast’s traditional style cider at two different restaurants where they offered it on draft. I loved the flavor and the fact that it has that cloudiness that I was used to in regular, family-friendly cider but never saw in the adult version. When, many months later, I saw a display for it in a liquor store, I just had to buy some… it turns out, they make a range of flavors, and I decided to try some that would be new to me. First I went with the honey cider. It sounded delicious to me. It turns out this is a mead, or a mead-cider blend, and I don’t think I’m that much of a mead person. While I did like it, I much prefer the regular flavor and probably wouldn’t buy the honey variety again.

Most recently I tried the cranberry flavor. I really enjoyed this one. It feels very fall-appropriate, and might be a great choice for Thanksgiving. I decided it would be best consumed poured into a glass with a slice of lime. I am far from the first person to make use of the cranberry-lime combination, but I would venture to say that I’m probably among the people who love it the most.

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I think the lime really added something to the flavor that made me, personally, enjoy it more. I also believe pouring it into a glass added to the experience. I’ve never really been into drinking out of a can (aside from soda, which I don’t drink much of anymore).

My decision after having Downeast three ways is that it is a good brand that I’m happy to support. I do think that from now on I’ll most likely try to get it on tap/draft, and buy something else to drink at home–unless I’m really craving the cranberry cider, because I’ve never seen that from any other brand.

Until next time,

Cheers!
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*I know that people have different ideas of what “local” actually means. For some it only applies to products made within the same state or town/city. This is not my view of it, but as the good people of Downeast let me know in a comment, they are currently based in Boston, which is my area. After they commented I actually went to look up their website (downeastcider.com) and found that they’ll be at SOWA Open Market until the end of the season! I definitely want to go if I can, but regardless, you should go check them out if you’re in the area.

The Best Service


Hello! I haven’t been posting very often for a while, I know. I have been very focused on certain things in life and not feeling that motivated to talk about my food. I also haven’t cooked too many things that merited full posts–not to mention that no one has responded at all when I asked if anyone would be interested in posts about particular dishes, so I figured it wouldn’t matter…

While I have a few food-related posts on deck, I’m taking a minor detour at the moment to say how impressed I am with Drugstore.com, which is owned by Walgreens. I first purchased from them sometime in the past two months. I wanted to check them out because I’d heard that they have much more variety than any of my local drugstores and they have a lot of natural, organic products. They even have a tab just for “green” products.

EDIT: I just read that Walgreens is trying to take advantage of some of those ridiculous benefits corporations get from the government in dodging taxes and stuff, so I might not be able to buy from them anymore. NOT COOL, Walgreens.

The truth is, they have EVERYTHING. They’re like a mega-drugstore, with all sorts of products and so many brands, you’ll be REALLY GLAD you have a database to search instead of trying to pick it off a store shelf. They even have vibrators. Drugstore.com has all the basics for your hygiene and health needs. The other side of the site, Beauty.com, has more specialty and prestige brands, but you can shop on both and check out from both sites at once. It’s so damn useful, I don’t know why more sites don’t do this…

 

Not only do they have a ridiculously wide variety of products, they always have sales and deals going on, and they give 5% credit back on (almost) all purchases. It’s a good place to get a good price on things, and it cuts down on your physical errands–always a plus for me.

Having placed my second order just a little while ago, I am also reminded how quickly they fill orders. So far, my orders from Drugstore.com have been shipped on the same day. It doesn’t take a week for the package to come to me, either. It’s more like 1-2 days. I’m a frequent online shopper and it comes with the territory that your orders might take a while to reach you, depending on the shipping service the company uses. This is logical and I generally accept it, but this super-quick delivery is what we really want when we shop online. In this case, it means that you could buy cold medicine without actually going out to the store and have it the next day, theoretically. Since I don’t have anyone to go buy cold medicine for me, this is a great advantage. I just hope they’re not using delivery drones (as I heard a while ago Amazon was planning to do). Those things freak me out. And wouldn’t they have to launch it at your front door? Weird.

That concludes my somewhat rant-y review. Overall, I think this site is worthwhile and if you’re like me and hate going to the drugstore in person, you should check them out.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon to check for food posts!

Go to Cafenation, Now. I’m Serious.


I can make a pretty good breakfast–that is, good for me. I will not claim to be skilled at any sort of fancy breakfast creations. I can make plenty of things that are tasty, or, at least edible, and at this point I’m very close to completely mastering the egg sandwich (often eaten for lunch or dinner as well, because I CANNOT get enough of them, it seems). I am incapable of making pretty pancakes or omelets. I’m trying to remember a time when I made breakfast for someone else that would be worth mentioning. As far as I can tell, there aren’t any.

This is why many of my best breakfasts happen when I go out. I don’t often go out for breakfast with a buddy. It’s too hard to gather people in the morning, especially a weekday morning, when the only people who could go with me aren’t even awake. (Or are in a different zip code.)

So I go out to breakfast. Or grab something on the way to work.

More often than not, this breakfast comes from Cafenation. They are one of my very favorite independent cafes in Boston (and everywhere else, but I’ll admit there are many I haven’t tried in other cities. In fact, most cafes in other cities I haven’t tried. Totally beside the point), because everything they offer is delicious. Their coffee is really good. Their chai is delicious. All their espresso drinks are amazing (I’m sure there’s the off drink once in a while), generally speaking. They have a pretty wide selection of teas, which I’m sure are also good. I’ve only tried the iced ones.

And the food? Well, duh. Delicious. Always. This morning I had the spiced apple and brie crepes, which were generously stuffed and dusted with powdered sugar. I had them before, probably three years ago, and it seemed about time. They have the standard cafe breakfast fare of bagels with various options for fillings/toppings (depending on if you eat it open-faced or not), tasty muffins and scones, and the full espresso bar you’re most likely hoping for. Then they have their omelets and crepes, good portions, fair price. I’ve tried one of the omelets with salsa and black beans, a bit like huevos rancheros, I guess. They also have a weekly special cream cheese flavor, in addition to the permanent selection, and jalapeno bagels. Who else has jalapeno bagels? Ok, probably a lot of places, but still.

Then there’s the lunch options. They have a small sampling of salads and soup, the latter of which changes by the week or day (I don’t know, I don’t get soup very much), and a nice list of sandwiches on your choice of bread. A few of the sandwiches are vegetarian options. Many of the breakfast items are vegetarian, and you can order them for lunch as well. The sandwiches are served with a good portion of mixed greens–more than just a token side salad, but not so much that it takes your attention from the sandwich. They also give you their housemade balsamic dressing, which is sweet and different and even if you think you don’t like balsamic dressing, I’d recommend you try it.

Bonus: They have one of the best day-old bread selections I’ve ever seen. Very rarely is the stuff more than just a little bit stale, but most likely it will keep for several days. They portion it well, too. I can get a half-dozen bagels, two muffins, and a scone for $3. There are times when I don’t buy bread at the grocery store for two or three weeks because I can get better stuff for less money at Cafenation. However, it’s often gone by midway through the day, so if you really want a good selection, you should go in the morning. It varies from day to day, too, as you might imagine. Sometimes they have a nice big pile, others, just a few bags. It’s a bit of a hit-or-miss sometimes, but definitely worth it.

In addition, the staff are generally very friendly, and if it’s not busy will even have conversations with you about things like tea. Sometimes they even remember my name. I go there a lot.  You should go there, and tell them I sent you. It won’t get you anything special, and most of them probably won’t know what you’re talking about, but tell them anyway.

Cafenation, 380 Washington St., Brighton, MA

Look Around, Try Something New


Ever been to Clover? They’re a vegetarian,  fresh-fast food joint with a few locations and a food truck or two.  I’m not vegetarian myself, but I’ve enjoyed their offerings every time I’ve been there so far.  This morning makes number 3, and it was definitely delicious. [Click the link in this paragraph to go to their website if you’re interested in finding out stuff about the business. You should, they’re cool.]

Circumstances collided this morning to make me desperate to buy a breakfast sandwich. I was on my way to Starbucks and happened to look up as I walked, for once, and notice Clover across the street. As I was thinking to myself, “They’re so good,” I saw their breakfast menu written on the window. For some reason I had been under the impression that they only did lunch, so I was surprised and immediately thought to hell with Starbucks, I’m going to Clover!

I got the breakfast sandwich, which is a freshly cooked egg, tomato, and cheese on pita. It’s not the typical egg sandwich–the bread is unusual and the egg I think was soft-boiled (that’s the only method I’m aware of that would result in the eggy end product on my breakfast…)–and that’s ok. It was delicious. Of course, if you feel like you need bacon on your sandwiches, you’re going to have to go elsewhere,  but you’ll be passing up something great!

I also got a coffee, even though I’d already had coffee that morning, because I have a hard time resisting coffee. They use the pour-over method, which essentially guarantees you a good cup of coffee. I’m not a pour-over snob, I promise. I drink as much regular drip coffee as the next person who likes things that are simple and easy to prepare (but not instant–never instant! yuck!), but I like pour over places because it means that your coffee is freshly brewed, every time. It takes only a few minutes longer than the standard Starbucks coffee.

What it all boils down to is freshness. They use local ingredients, actually fresh ingredients (not frozen), and everything is made to order. I know some people don’t think that really matters, but believe me, you can taste the difference. However, they don’t jack the prices up like some places would–in fact, I find them very affordable. I am sure I’ll be going back there for breakfast in the future.

And they have popovers! I don’t always like popovers, but sometimes I’m in the mood for them. Maybe I’ll try the popover sandwich next time.

Monday Madness: Why, Math?


I signed up for an online class that started at the beginning of the month. I watched the first three video lectures right away, but then I forgot about it for the rest of the week. Each time they post the next week’s lectures they send an email. I got that email as each Sunday passed, putting off watching the videos, and finally, yesterday, went and watched the rest of the first weeks’ videos. The first four weeks are posted now.

The first videos I watched were ok. I generally understood what they were talking about and I figured they’d elaborate more in later weeks. Then the fourth and fifth, or fifth and sixth–I’m not sure, counting is hard–videos came along with equations and stuff, and all of a sudden I’m like “Uh, what?”

I’m not good with math. I can wrap my head around equations but only if each part is explained to me in detail, usually, and did I mention I haven’t actually done any math since high school, where I haven’t been for almost nine years? I was pretty lost. I felt that anything that they lingered on was stuff that was ridiculously easy to understand, but they sped through the equations without actually explaining how to use them. I really wanted this class to be a success, but if I watch the second group of videos and can’t get it, I might have to unenroll. I’m sure this will be largely because I put off watching the videos and therefore didn’t give myself enough time to study the stuff. But I thought we were going to be talking about theoretical stuff, not making calculations, so…

I’m starting to think that online classes don’t work for me, particularly if it’s just a free class that I’m not taking for a grade. There’s just about no accountability and that, ODDLY ENOUGH, is the same reason I never get any writing done.

I don’t know. There’s a class on the music of The Beatles starting soon, so maybe I should just take that one.

Monday Madness: Odd Motivation


Happy birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr. I don’t get the day off to celebrate but I hope you have a fun ghost party.

I’ve discovered an interesting pattern: I’m able to focus on work (of whatever kind) for a solid several hours after watching at least one episode of Gilmore Girls.

Pop culture (movies and tv in particular) is not generally something I find helps me work. Typically it helps me avoid work. This is a very odd phenomenon, completely out of tune with my life in general.

I have a guess for why this happens, but I couldn’t say for sure.

The women in the show (the main ones) are very driven, with specific goals and very obvious determination. Others do not have the same goal-orientation, but they are very talented or have strong personalities. I think that watching them instills, to a certain degree, the urge to get something done. Watch an episode, edit thirty pages. Or something like that. I wanted to work on my own writing again, but sadly I did not have time.

You know what’s not motivating, though? Hint: I talk about it a lot–my commute. I find it draining and I need time to recharge after I get to work. This can be a problem because I can’t leave early enough to have proper time for recharging. I like sleep too much for that. Why couldn’t I have found a job I could get to without wanting to die? WHY?

And why do buses have to change their schedules on certain days? All you really achieve is making the people who still need to use the bus that day wait for absurd amounts of time.

 

I need to stay off facebook on days like this. People are posting their day-off activities all over the place and not only do these activities not have anything whatsoever to do with me, but they make me jealous that I have to be at work. So. Keep it to yourself, why don’t you?

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