Sunday, September 28, 2008

Eat, Drink and Be Sherry!

Last week an invitation from LA Magazine came across my inbox for a foodie event at The Grove. The event promised free food tastings from Grover restaurants, sherry tastings and a cooking showdown between Top Chef contestants Chris "CJ" Jacobson and Antonia Lafoso. Of course I had to pass the invite on to some of my favorite foodies and we made plans to meet. Eddie came with me as well, since he is a fan of both Top Chef and food.

On our way to the event Eddie and I encountered a random protest against the $700 billion bailout package. Most protestors carried signs, as one would expect, but this guy put a little more effort into making a visual impact for passing motorists.

Shortly after the event started I spied CJ and Antonia just a few feet away from our table. CJ is pretty hard to miss; he is a damn tall man. They were kind enough to let me and Weezermonkey take pictures with them.

We started off with two items from The Whisper Lounge. Up first, Braised Short Rib Sliders with black pepper-blue chees aioli, arugula & pickled red onions. These were a little heavy on the aioli and had clearly been prepared hours earlier. They are probably tasty when hot.

The restaurant's next offering was Braised Short Rib Tostadas with avocado crema and spicy heirloom tomato salsa. I think this item was the hands-down favorite item at our table. It's too bad we only got three wee tostadas on one plate to share, whereas we each received our own plate for the other tastings. It didn't help matters that this plate was served by the mean waiter. He was probably hoarding the good stuff for himself.

Next we had Butternut Squash Ravioli tossed with sun dried tomatoes in a light parmesan cheese sauce & topped with crumbled amaretti cookies. This was a nice, yummy dish and perfect for a fall evening. My photos of this item sucked, so check out Weezermonkey's. Maggiano's was nice enough to have prepared enough for the crowd to have second servings. Insomniac was also nice enough to save a portion for Trisha who was running late.
The Farm prepared Black & White Salmon over ginger sticky rice with wasabi, orange-hoisin and miso honey mustard sauces. The salmon looked interesting, but seemed a bit overcooked. The rice had too much going on with all the sauces.

Finally we had Olive Oil Poached Alaskan Halibut with tomato sunchoke puree with a thyme and lemon jus courtesy of Morels. It was accompanied by a Wild and Morel Mushroom Duxelle with heirloom tomatoes and micro greens served on a freshly toasted crostini. The halibut was just "meh", but I like the sunchoke puree. The mushroom duxelle was great. When a waiter offered seconds, I took a plate just to have another crostini.

At last the cheftestant showdown began. The showdown combined elements of a Top Chef quickfire challenge (a time limit) and of the show Iron Chef (a secret ingredient -- sherry -- had to be used). Antonia planned to incorporate watermelon into her finished dish, which caused all of us to reminisce about the disaster that was Sam Talbot's watermelon gnocchi in season two.
CJ used some luscious looking pieces of foie gras in his creation.
The judges came up with the weakest decision ever: It was a tie! And the prize? A giant wooden spoon!
Overall, it was a fun evening -- especially the company. "Eat, Drink & Be Sherry!" was actually a pre-event for LA Magazine's annual food event. Eddie and I attended last year's food event and had a fabulous time. We sampled a lot of food from notable LA restaurants, watched several celebrity chef demos and enjoyed tastings of La Crema wines. It's an event worth checking out (although I do have to note that ticket prices went up $20 this year). I was actually a little bummed that we'll be out of town this year and will have to miss it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Joys of Facebook

Back when I graduated high school in 1993, it was a bit tougher to stay in touch with people. Unlike today's teenagers no one had cell phones and e-mail & internet usage were in their infancy. Had anyone even thought of social networking sites at that time? The combination of busy work and school schedules, along with location changes made it difficult for me to stay in touch with some of my close friends from high school. Despite the best of intentions, we drifted apart.

Over the past few months I have found some of those friends again on Facebook. And while I was glad to see all of them again and catch up with their lives via photos and messages, there was still one person "missing" in my heart. She was the girl who I would consider my best friend in high school, the one that I had kept in touch with the longest post-graduation, the one that left me thinking "I wonder what she's up to." I had done a couple FB and MySpace searches for her in the past to no avail. (I swear I'm not a stalker!) But today, there was a wonderful surprise in my Yahoo! inbox -- a message requesting that I confirm her as a friend.

With this new addition, I have now reconnected with the core group of people I spent my high school years with. I'm pretty darn stoked about it. :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How Not To Be A Juror

The key to not being selected for a jury? Actually want to be selected as a juror.

This morning I headed to court, not as a lawyer but as a prospective juror. I was looking somewhat forward to the prospect of being on a jury. I want to know what happens in the jury room during deliberations when people stop being polite and start getting real. I checked in, found a seat and watched the goofy video about the trial process. Okay, I didn't really watch it; I read my book instead. As luck would have it, my panel was sent up to a courtroom as soon as the video was over. My luck persisted in that the case was a civil one and did not involve any lawyers or court staff that I already know. My local courthouse is not in the same town where I make most of my own court appearances, but I still know a few people at the local outpost.

As the judge gave us a brief overview of the claims being made and some of the areas of inquiry, I couldn't help but think I'd be a perfect juror for this case (assuming the lawyers could get past having another lawyer as a juror). Some exposure to injury claims arising out of accidents? Check. Ability to listen to expert witnesses? Check. Familiarity with economics and financial projections? Check and check. Willingness and ability to serve on a jury for three weeks without causing personal hardship? Check. This case was so meant to be mine for consideration.

Except that I didn't get randomly called into the box or as part of the six-pack. Instead I was sentenced to sit in the audience and listen to almost two dozen people drone on about their lives. Apart from the one freakshow who started spouting off on the evils of psychiatric medications a'la Tom Cruise, it was very dull. Painfully boring. A g o n i z i n g l y s l o w. It began to dawn on me that the suckiest part about being a potential juror is waiting in the audience and then not being selected. After four hours of this torture, not only was I finally set free but I also earned my freedom from jury duty for one year. It's a double-edged sword for me. On the one hand at least I don't have to endure another day of this for a while. But on the other hand, I still want to know what really goes down during deliberations.

The Mind Knows What It Wants ...

... and mine wants more sleep. Instead of hitting the snooze button this morning I turned the alarm off instead. And fell back asleep. I'm not all that surprised. Fortunately I woke up within a half hour; I don't think Eddie will be that late for work. :-/

If I were queen of the world, my office hours would be 9:30-6. Who am I kidding? Like I'd keep working if I became queen of the world. ;-)

Monday, September 22, 2008

I'd Like More Time With This Bottle

Note: There are not any photos to accompany this food related post. I was dining with co-workers and no one at work knows that I blog. Not even my friends. It's just better this way. And since I work with a bunch of lawyer-types, taking photos of our meal would have definitely raised some questions.

There usually isn't much to rave about in the way of restaurants out in BFE. But on Friday I had a great lunch at Time In A Bottle wine lounge & restaurant. Family owned and operated, it's truly a hidden gem on Orange St. The interior was warm, cozy and inviting with a few tall tables, a long bar and several couches. There is also a room in the back for larger groups or special events. Our small group opted to sit at one of the tables near the front windows. Our server Adrienne turned out to be not only the daughter of the owners, but the executive chef as well.

Wines are available by the glass or bottle; you could also build your own flight from the extensive list. We each opted for a glass and were all pleased with our selections. I opted for a glass of St. Clair pinot noir. The menu offers an array of appetizers, panini and flatbreads. We ordered a cheese fondue, a prosciutto & pesto panini, a shaved roast beef panini and a margherita flatbread. The paninis were served with a green salad containing mixed greens, edible flowers, fresh berries and topped with a sweet vinegarette. All were wonderful and just the perfect portion size. One of the dipping items for the fodue, the herbed cheese puffs, were so good we ended up ordering a separate appetizer portion of them. For dessert, we shared the tiramisu accompanied by chilled glasses of Chocolate Amore port. I'm not usually a port drinker, but this port paired perfectly with the tiramisu. After seeing how much we enjoyed the port, Adrienne brought out glasses of Sauternes for us to try with the cake as well. She was interested in finding out how the Sauternes paired with the tiramisu. It complemented the dessert, but was not as awesome as the Chocolate Amore was. By this point, none of thought we could eat another bite or drink another sip, but then we were served strawberries topped with an amazing chocolate liquer. It looked and tasted like melted chocolate. It was an incredible ending to an incredible meal.

This was definitely a splurge lunch both in terms of cost and calories, but well worth it.

It's Onam Time!

Onam is harvest festival celebrated in Kerala, a state in southern India. The specific dates vary from year to year, but usually takes place in late August or early September. Onam 2008 began on September 12. While there are many festivities that celebrate Onam, the best tradition by far is the Onam Sadya (or Onasadya). While meat and fish are commonly used in Kerala cuisine, Onam is one time where a sadya is exclusively vegetarian. Growing up in my family, we always celebrated Onam and often celebrated the occasion with friends. Most of our Onasadyas were at the home of one other family who were strict vegetarians year-round. It was an annual tradition; they would always invite us and 2 other families over. As one would expect, that auntie certainly had the market cornered when it came to cooking veggies. Since I was otherwise occupied last weekend, yesterday was the evening designated for our Onasadya.

Last year was the first year I tried to cook an Onasadya on my own. I had pulled a few recipes off the internet and then tried to adapt them based on what I could recall of how my mom cooks particular dishes. Asking my mom wasn't particularly successful, as most Indian moms describe recipes with "a pinch of that, some this, a little bit of that, cook it for a while", etc. The results were mixed. :-/

This year I tried the same approach, but with a bit more research on the recipes. And I've been paying even closer attention to how my mom cooks things when I visit SF. An uber-traditional Onasadya has nine-courses served in a precise order, but that would be overkill for just the two of us. Read: I did not want to spend literally the entire day cooking. Instead I picked just a few of the traditional items. My primary recipe source was Kerala Recipes. I chose this site after reading through its recipes and comparing them against (a) other websites and (b) my limited knowledge of Indian vegetarian cooking. Plus most of the recipes were attributed to a Mrs. Annamma Philippose --- and that's a straight-up Malayalee name if I've ever heard one!

A note before moving on to the recipes: Indian cooking lends itself easily to adaptation. In fact, there were several recipes I encountered online that made the same dish, but never in the exact same manner. When I cook Indian food, there are a few big changes I make to every recipe.

  1. I don't use coconut oil to cook for the simple reason that my mom never does and she's an outstanding cook. I used a canola oil blend instead.

  2. I also don't use as much grated coconut that is called for.

  3. I make a much smaller quantity than recipes call for. Most recipes are designed with family-style dining in mind.

The first dish I cooked was avial. This is one of my favorite dishes and the one I was most nervous about cooking. It always seems so complicated when my mom makes it. It was the most time consuming, as there is a lot of chopping required. Also, it must be cooked over low to medium low heat. I didn't use the exact vegetables that the recipe called for. Instead I used yam, taro root, string beans, plantain, 2 types of snake gourd and drumsticks. It turned out suprisingly well. The yogurt is really what gives this dish its unique taste.

Next up were two vegetables cooked separately, but using a similar technique: cabbage thoran and okra thoran. I didn't change too much in either of these recipes. The okra however, was undersalted while the cabbage was too salty.

Since I had leftover yogurt from the avial, I decided to make moru curry. This was a staple in our household as I was growing up. I could live on a good moru, hot rice and a bit of mango pickle. I think I did exactly that for a phase back in 5th grade!

My composed plate with mango pickle and fried bitter melon as accompaniments:

You'll notice that there isn't any cabbage on my plate. I hate cabbage thoran. But it is one of Eddie's favorite Indian dishes, so I cook it anyways just for him. That's love.

One thing became clear as I made this meal. Indian cookery is a skill that requires patience, practice and lots of trial-and-error. In other words I need to cook Indian food on a somewhat regular basis so that I can truly gain sort of mastery over these dishes and others. Don't be surprised if more Indian recipes start making their way onto this blog! ;-)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Caution: 90210 Spoilers Ahead

You've been forewarned.

I'm leaving lots of spoiler space.

There's even a photo taking up even more space to make sure you can stay unspoiled if you haven't watched this week's episode yet.

"I KNEW IT!" is what I shouted, much to Eddie's amusement, when Brenda revealed who the father of Kelly's baby is. It had to be Dylan. No one else would have made any sense based on the characters' personalities and the clues we were given in previous episodes. Last week it was mentioned that Kelly had a history with her baby daddy dating back to high school days. The only major character that Kelly seriously dated during the high school years was Dylan. There was some speculation it could have been Steve's child, but I always thought those folks were stretching. Deeply.

I never fully believed it was Brandon's baby either. First of all, Kelly and Brandon didn't hook up until college. But beyond that, Brandon Walsh aka "Mr. Always-Do-The-Right-Thing" would not be an absentee father. Also, Ma and Pa Walsh would not be absentee grandparents. It would be a complete character assassination to think that any of those three characters would be totally absent from a loved one's life. Dylan, however, makes sense. While the original 90210 left off with him and Kelly together, they have always had a tumultuous relationship. Dylan has also been prone to disappearing when he felt it suited him. I know the current show was trying to build up suspense leading to the big reveal, but the only way they could have shocked me was to have anyone other than Dylan be the father.

If you remember my earlier post about 90210, I had said I probably wouldn't be watching the 2nd edition. Well, I have been watching but I haven't been enjoying it. I simply don't care about any of the new characters except for Erin Silver. And I only care about her since she is a member of one of the original families. The past three weeks I've been DVR'ing the episodes and fast forwarding to the scenes involving Brenda and/or Kelly. But once their roles end, I'm out.

Mo' eating, Mo' shopping

The past weekend was definitely not health & fitness oriented. After our lunch feast at Pizzeria Mozza, Valerie and I had lunch the following day at Maggiano's. We shared a 1/2 order of the chopped salad followed by a 1/2 order of the baked ziti with sausage.

What's the best way to work off a meal? Walking around South Coast Plaza. After the work-related events of the past month, I was ready for some retail therapy. The first thing that called to me was this Marc Jacobs tote:
Another Marc Jacobs bag called out to me as well:
Ultimately, however, it is this Botkier hobo that still occupies my thoughts three days later. It's a bag that never would have caught my eye online or probably even in print. But when I placed over my shoulder at Saks, it felt like it belonged to me. As much as I love handbags I rarely ever buy one on first sight; I need to mull it over a little bit. I think I'll be ordering this one by week's end.

After we had shopped and browsed to our heart's content, I suggested a visit to Sprinkles. I am truly jealous of people that live within a short driving distance of a Sprinkles location. My flavor selections are limited to the weekend varieties, yet there are several other flavors I want to try. I may have to strategically play hooky sometime in the future. On this visit I picked up carrot cake, chocolate marshmallow and key lime cupcakes:

Jack got cupcakes too!
After a cup of coffee and watching some interesting OC stereotypes at the Corona del Mar Plaza, it was time to drop Valerie off at the hotel where her conference was being held. It was a fun weekend, but far too short.

More Mozza Please

One of my dearest friends from the bay area flew down for a visit this past weekend. Since it was her first time visiting me since I moved, we had been planning our activities for a while. Well, we planned one activity around which the rest of the trip was planned: lunch at Pizzeria Mozza. Valerie and I are both Top Chef fanatics and a few seasons ago cheftestant Tiffani Faison created a divine-sounding salted butterscotch pudding for a challenge. Shortly after the episode aired I read that her dessert was inspired by the butterscotch budino at Pizzeria Mozza. The budino has been an obsession ever since.

There was ample 2-hour street parking just around the corner from the restaurant. We parked under an interesting tree that neither one of us could identify. Fruit? Flower? Any gardeners out there who can solve this mystery?

The graffiti on this dumpster seemed to raise a Law & Disorder appropriate question: What the hell happened here?! Did we stumble upon a popular baby dumping part of the city? :-/

From the corner of Highland & Melrose we could see the iconic Hollywood sign, albeit it through a thick layer of nasty haze.
Finally, we were inside the pizzeria. We had arrived a bit early for our 1:15 reservation and the restaurant was indeed full until our table was ready. We had waited outside because the restaurant was very full and standing space was limited. It's a tiny place. When I called at 10am exactly one month prior to make the reservation, I was number 4 on the waiting list of calls to be answered. Despite that, 1:15 was still the earliest lunch reservation I could get. They weren't kidding around. The place was packed with a mix of families, young & old couples and large groups of friends.

We started off with crisp breadsticks.

The wine list is extensive, reasonably priced and features Italian wines. You can either purchase a bottle or a quartino. I asked our waitress to recommend an easy-drinking white and ended up with a '04 Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi.
Valerie had a '05 Montepulciano Quattro Mani.

We shared an appetizer of fried squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta. I've been obsessed with trying fried squash blossoms since I read A Thousand Days in Tuscany. I wasn't disappointed. The batter was light and crispy. And the contrast between the crisp exterior and the warm. melty cheese inside was wonderful. While we ate our appetizer, we noticed that the table next to us had ordered an incredible looking caprese salad with burrata and roasted tomatoes. I had a moment of appetizer envy, but since squash blossoms are a seasonal item (and yummy!) I didn't have any regrets.

Valerie ordered a pizza topped with prosciutto di parma, rucola, tomato & mozzarella.

I ordered the fennel sausage, panna, red onion & scallion pizza.
Both pizzas were great and on par with pizzas I have eaten in Italy. They definitely lived up to the hype that this place receives. In particular, the house-made fennel sausage was outstanding. If they sold that stuff I'd be buying it by the pounds.

Although we knew we'd be ordering the butterscotch budino for dessert, we didn't see any harm in ordering another dessert to share as well. We started Round 3 of our meal with a coconut sorbetto pie. Served in a chocolate crust and with salted almonds on the side, it tasted like an upscale, reinvented Almond Joy. Sometimes I feel like a nut, so I enjoyed this dessert.

The best was saved for last. I'm normally not a huge fan of butterscotch; it's not the first thing I think of when I think of dessert. But the budino was one of the most perfect desserts I have had in recent memory. The budino was thick and creamy without being heavy. The sweetness of the budino and layer of cramel is perfectly balanced by the flecks of sea salt. It's accompanied by shortbread cookies topped with pinenuts and rosemary, which are fantastic in their own right. The only remotely bad thing I can say about this dessert is that the whipped cream isn't necessary. It doesn't really add anything other than a nice aesthetic. We spooned off the cream so that we could fully enjoy the flavors of the budino.
In short, I can't wait to head back to Pizzeria Mozza. Deciding what to order was somewhat of a challenge because there were so many items on the menu I wanted to try. Not to mention that I could definitely have more budino in my life. Getting a reservations seems to require a bit of planning, but it seemed that walk-ins didn't have too long of a wait getting seats at one of the bar counters, especially towards the tail end of lunch (approx. 2pm).

After lunch we headed over to Amoeba Records. Valerie had certain CDs in mind that she was on the hunt for. I didn't have anything in mind at all yet I walked out with all of the following:

Shopping was followed up by watching the movie The Women. Certain aspects of the story riled up my inner feminist. But overall it was an entertaining movie and I lusted after many of the handbags, shoes and dresses worn by the characters. It was a good movie to watch with a great girlfriend.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

New Recipe Sunday #8

Macaroni with Gruyere Cheese, Serrano Ham and Leeks
Source: Chef Jared Simon, Violet

Is it any wonder that I felt drawn to cooking a comfort food dish this weekend? I had been itching to try this recipe for a while, but the combination of a gloomy week and the knowledge that fall is just around the corner made today the perfect day to finally cook this.

You will need:
  • 1-1/2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup Serrano ham, diced in 1/8 inch cubes
  • 1 cup gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 cups cream
  • 1 large leek, julienned
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • chives (optional)

    1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.
    2. Heat a medium sized saute pan. Add the 3 teaspoons of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the ham and saute over medium heat until the cubes begin to brown. Add the leeks and toss with the ham. Add cream. When the cream begins to simmer, add the parmesan cheese. Add macaroni. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    3. Divide the macaroni mixture into four ovenproof dishes. Top each dish with gruyere cheese and bread crumbs.
    4. Bake the macaroni in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for approximately 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and garnish with chopped chives (optional).

    Cooking Notes: (a) I couldn't find Serrano ham in BFE, so I just subbed in some Niman Ranch ham that I already had on hand. Prosciutto would be a closer substitute for the original however. (b) As you can tell, I baked it in one larger dish rather than individual serving pieces. (c) In order to brown the topping, I put the dish under the broiler for 2-3 minutes after baking. Just keep a close eye on it to make sure it doesn't start to burn.

    The Verdict: "Make it again." I really enjoyed this. It didn't taste as heavy as a more traditional mac n' cheese, perhaps due to the delicate flavor of the leeks or because it didn't involve as much cheese. The one disadvantage I had in making this recipe is that I've never dined at Violet and therefore have not tasted it in its original form. Undoubtedly it would blow mine out of the water, but since I'm so pleased with how mine turned out I'm looking forward to whenever I do get a chance to try it at the restaurant.

    Saturday, September 6, 2008

    And Then the Other Shoe Dropped

    The first shoe can be found here.

    The second shoe dropped on Thursday morning. Big Bad walked into my office with a line that never seems to indicate anything good, "Can we talk for a minute? You wouldn't mind if I shut the door."

    For the next ten minutes he Big Bad proceeded to tell me that I just "wasn't a match" for the specialty unit assignment I had been in the past two years and that I'd be transferred to a different branch of The Agency, dealing with juvenile delinquents, in mid-October.

    I was astounded.
    1. There had been a massive county-wide rotation in July and no one had any expectation that any more transfers and reassignments would be taking place shortly. Especially after Big Bad had said just a few weeks earlier that there wouldn't be any personnel changes in the specialty unit division. The Agency is a rather gossipy place and even my most gossipy friends hadn't heard the tiniest inkling about this.
    2. One of Big Bad's complaints was that I hadn't done enough jury trials, even though I had done more than at least one of my peers in the unit. His rationale for the reassignment was that it would help me "thrive and reach my potential". But all juvenile trials are court trials, not jury trials. So wtf is the logic behind that?
    3. I have already done a rotation in the juvenile unit four years ago. While there are a scant few positions geared towards more experienced attorneys, it's mostly populated by new hires. I'm well beyond being a new hire. So this supposed move to "help me thrive" feels like a step backwards.

    My initial sense of shock turned to being Since it was clear that the decision was final, I figured I had nothing left to lose and told Big Bad exactly how I felt. In his speech to me he accidentally spilled that he had an unflattering image of me before I started in my current assignment. This wasn't a surprise to me because FearlessLeader had advised me of it long ago. So I told Big Bad that I was extremely disappointed that he never gave me a fair chance of working for him since he already had his mind made up about me before he even met me. I told him that I didn't understand the logic of sending me to do only court trials in another assignment, when he didn't count the court trials I did do over the past two years as being worthy of my stats. And speaking of stats, mine were not out of line with my peers. While he may have expected me to single-handedly do 15-20 jury trials per year, the fact is that the unit as a whole doesn't do that many jury trials in a year!

    Of course, Big Bad never directly answered these questions. Much like a Republican trying to gloss over Sarah Palin's lack of qualifications, he spent the next half hour putting his own positive spin on things and defending the process of how transfer decisions are made. And while I smiled and nodded and shook his hand before he walked out of my office, the entire time I couldn't help but think the gentleman doth protest too much.

    This decision had nothing to do with my best interests. It was purely personal, based on information Big Bad had heard about me years ago. And this leads me to a rant about office management. More often than not, the most skilled trial attorneys are the ones elevated into positions of leadership. While they may possess the knowledge to help attorneys working under them, the skills that make someone a great trial attorney are not necessarily the skills necessary to make someone a great manager and motivator of people. In fact, the two skill sets are often at odds with each other. Developing a theory of a case and sticking to it during a trial in order to make a jury see it your way? Good skill for a trial attorney. Developing an opinion about an employee based on rumor or innuendo and then sticking to it even when provided with contrary information in order to make that employee fit within your preconceived notion of him or her? NOT a good skill for a supervisor or chief. I wish I could say that I'm the only person to experience something like this, but the sad truth is that I am just one of many. This type of thing has happened countless number of times across the many offices and branches of The Agency.

    After Big Bad left my office, I was flooded with all the reasons why I don't want to leave my current assignment. Literally. The other attorneys and staff in my unit came rushing to my side to ask why Big Bad was in my office for so long and what was going on. Despite our unit sometimes being referred to as the Island of Misfit Toys, we are all very tight-knit and are very much like a family. The looks on their faces were almost as sad as my own. And the look that FearlessLeader gave me summed up the situation: it was BS and everyone knew it. While my initial inclination was to leave for anywhere I could drink many martinis, I decided to just get through the rest of the day and do my job. Throughout the remainder of the day, my co-workers all kept checking in with me to make sure I was okay and either letting me vent or listen to their vents about the situation. My own assertions that I'd be fine weren't enough for FearlessLeader; he kept checking with other people to make sure that I really was alright and said that if I needed to go home that I could. In most other units the reaction to someone being transferred is along the lines of, "That sorta sucks; see you around." But the warmth and caring that I was surrounded with upon news of my impending departure illustrated what makes our unit so different and why leaving will be so hard.

    I'm still not okay with how things unfolded, but the bottom line is that I will be fine. I have already worked for the supervisor and chief of the juvenile division and got along well with them . I know that if they had a problem with me they wouldn't have been willing to take me on again. I already know exactly what working at juvenile is like. I handled it before; I can handle it again. I have the same employer, the same job title and the same salary. In this economy I have to be mindful and apppreciative of those things. And then there is the obvious silver lining: I won't have to deal with the dark cloud of Big Bad anymore.

    Wednesday, September 3, 2008

    Fierce at Fifty

    Two Fridays ago (I'm so behind on blogging!) my co-workers and I took MissFab out to celebrate her birthday. MissFab truly is fabulous: outspoken, stylish, an expert in her field and possesses a heart of gold. Much like Samantha on SATC without all the freakiness.

    We started our evening at Las Campanas at the Mission Inn.

    We all had massive margaritas. There were also several yummy quesadillas and flautas (and a not-so-yummy ceviche), but we were a hungry bunch. I couldn't take a picture fast enough.

    We had tequila shots too.

    There was a purpose behind loading up on alcohol. We needed the liquid courage for what lay ahead in the evening. MissFab thought we were just having a happy hour. Little did she know that we were also going to be doing a little bit of dancing. Lap dancing and pole dancing to be specific!
    We were all signed up for a private dance class through From Mind to Body. It was the most hysterical 90 minutes that I can recall ever spending with co-workers. First we had to pair off. Then we each took turns being the dancer and the recipient as we learned the choreography. Start with grinding up against the wall, then drop it like it's hot and start crawling towards your partner. Massage your partner's legs with your arms as you snake your chest back and forth, then rise and repeat the grinding while you are essentially straddling your partner's lap. Then do a seductive walk around your partner, massage their back and chest while standing behind them, thrust your boobs into the curve of their neck, walk back to the front and do some more grinding. Oh and caress yourself sexily whenever you have the opportunity to do so. Now, that all seems pretty silly in writing. It is even sillier when done with people you know! Everyone was a great sport about it though and got into the routine in their own way. Fraggle & SoccerMom took the prize for most interpretive when they started making their best "RAWR" faces while crawling. MsClass showed us her wild side my literally letting her hair down and flipping it all around. Other folks, MissFab included, worked diligently on committing the routine to memory. As for myself, I couldn't look my class partner in the eye without completely cracking up and had to disengage while dancing, gazing at the wall instead. I guess that's what jaded strippers actually do? Not that I would really know or anything ..... just going off what I've heard.

    After learning a lap dance we moved on to learning basic pole dancing maneuvers such as the Walk, the Half-Swing, Basic Spin, Spin w/ Leg Extension, the Leg Stroke and what I truly excelled at: the Pirouette into Slow Sliding Squat. That would totally be my signature move.

    In addition to doing private lessons for parties, the studio also markets a weekly series of these classes for fitness purposes. I have to admit, we had all worked up a pretty good sweat by the end of class and almost all of us had muscle soreness to a degree the next day.

    And because I'm sure you're all dying to know, Eddie has not yet reaped the benefits of my dance lesson. I really don't know when he will. I imagine it would be on a day when a lot of alcohol is consumed. But I can't imagine actually doing the dance without one or both of us laughing our asses off. :-)

    Monday, September 1, 2008

    New Recipe Sunday #7

    Pasta with Sausage, Basil and Mustard
    Source: Food & Wine magazine

    You will need:
    • 1 pound penne or medium shells
    • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 pound hot Italian sausage -- casings removed and meat crumbled
    • 3/4 cup dry white wine
    • 3/4 cup heavy cream
    • 3 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
    • pinch of crushed red pepper
    • 1 cup thinly sliced basil
    1. Cook the pasta until al dente in a large pot of boiling, salted water; drain.
    2. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the crumbled sausage and brown over moderately high heat. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the cream, mustard, crushed red pepper and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the pasta and basil and serve.

    Cooking Notes: (a) As usual I halved the amount of pasta. (b) I also halved the amount of mustard after seeing the face Eddie made when he saw it on the counter with the rest of the ingredients.

    Eddie's Rating: "I don't know about this hon." I sort of agreed with him. The dish wasn't a disaster, but there was something off about it. I do plan on making this again, but with the following modifications:

    • Using even less of the mustard -- maybe a single tablespoon at the most. Even with the reduced amount I used, the mustard flavor was clear and present. Not in a good way.
    • Using a higher quality pork suasage or a poultry-based sausage instead. The brand I had used (Johnsonville?) was too greasy, which affected the sauce.
    • Paying closer attention to the wine as it reduced. I'm not entirely sure that I cooked it down long enough.

    I'll post an updated review when I make it again.