Friday, November 27, 2009

Watching Top Chef has been a Wednesday night ritual for me since the show's debut. I initially got drawn to the program due to Season 1's setting in San Francisco. I was happy to take any glimpse of home, wherever I could find it. It wasn't long before I was addicted to watching the dishes and the drama unfold.

Instead of watching Top Chef two Wednesdays ago, Eddie and I ventured out to Pasadena for dinner at The Dining Room at the Langham Hotel, where current cheftestant Michael Voltaggio is Chef de Cuisine. GoogleMaps actually did send us on an adventure through some of the hotel's narrow, winding side streets, which resulted in much "oohing" and "aahing" as we passed by incredible, multi-million dollar homes.

The magnificence of the Langham certainly fit in with the neighborhood. Based upon its appearance the hotel had a lot of potential to be snooty, but all of the staff members we encountered were friendly and hospitable. Even if we did roll up in a very dirty, 12 year old 4Runner.

The Dining Room currently feels very formal and slightly stuffy. However, there is a planned renovation beginning early next year. As I expected on a Wednesday, it was a fairly slow evening. We were tucked away at a table along the back wall, not unlike this one.

Shortly after being seated, our waiter asked if we would like to see a menu. I confidently replied, "No." Eddie & I were there for the chef's tasting menu; we wanted to get right down to business. Our waiter seemed stoked at this news. That made me happy. In fact, all of the servers who waited on us that evening were incredibly friendly and happy, as was the sommelier. As a guest, I could feel the sense of teamwork between all of them.

I have to admit though that my happiness level dipped a bit when I saw our amuse bouche: Chips and salsa with queso fresco. This looked like powder with a dollop of jelly. I eyed it suspiciously before scooping everything up into the teeny tiny teaspoon that accompanied it. Much to my delight all the ingredients melded together in my mouth and tasted exactly like chips and salsa with a bit of queso fresco. We were off to a good start.
Three types of rolls were offered. I couldn't resist the bacon bread. You can never go wrong with choosing bacon.
Our first course was Japanese Shima Aji with pickled baby peach, sea sponge and bonito. There were a lot of elements to this dish, but they all worked very well together.
Chocolate brioche accompanied by an insanely rich, creamy butter was served just prior to our 2nd course.
The 2nd course: Langoustine with young fennel and lobster mushroom lasagna, served in a lobster bisque. This was the star of the night for both of us. Its light look was deceptive. This was so rich and flavorful. We could have easily eaten an entire chef's menu consisting of this dish served numerous times.
Our 3rd course: Foie Gras with aerated brioche, concord grape and sunchoke. We were split on this one. Eddie was not a fan; he prefers seared foie gras.
I liked the foie gras, but could have done with less of the concord grape. So I just let a lot of it ooze out. I'm picky about mixing sweet and savory flavors, so this was really a personal issue and not reflective of the chef at all. The real surprise for me here was the aerated brioche. It was like biting into a cloud of tastiness.
4th course: Turbot with butternut squash, madras curry and pumpkin seed granola. We were slightly split on the dish again. Eddie took a bite of granola with the turbot and didn't care for it. He ended up ignoring the rest of the granola altogether. I, on the other hand, saw the granola, then saw the small drops of yogurt on the plate and ate the granola with the yogurt. Granola + yogurt = yum. Turbot + all the other ingredients - granola = yum. I was quite happy.
5th Course: Pastrami Pigeon with swiss cheese, sauerkraut and rye. We were back to being agreement on this dish. Neither of us had eaten pigeon previously. This was a great introduction to it.
6th course: Jameson Farm Lamb with vadouvan, pickled tongue, celery root, raisin and peanut butter. I was really struggling to eat another bite by this point in the meal. So I skipped the crouton after sampling it and half of the celery root puree. Instead I focused in on the lamb. It's all about priorities people.
Pre-dessert: raspberry sorbet.
Dessert was Fools Gold: chocolate ganache, salty hazelnut praline and milk sorbet. This might look a little familiar to viewers of Top Chef: Las Vegas. This was tasty, not too heavy and a perfect end to our meal. Or so we thought.
Mignardise: pate de fruit in edible paper, mini macarons and dark chocolate lollipops with pop rocks hidden inside. I cannot tell you how happy these lollipops made me. I felt like a kid again. I was grinning from ear to ear as my head filled up with the tinglyness of pop rocks. Dear Mr. Voltaggio, can you please box and sell these? I promise I would buy a lot of them.

We had a wonderful evening at the Langham and are already planning a return trip after the renovations are complete. I really can't say enough about the quality of the food and service. In the meantime, as Top Chef: Las Vegas winds down for the season, we are Team Michael Voltaggio all the way!

Monday, November 9, 2009


This past weekend I attended my fraternity's LEAD school. Usually I skip most of the sessions, as they are geared toward collegiate students. I just register and attend so I (a) set a good example for my kids and (b) can spend some quality time with alums I don't get to see very often. This year, there were actually a few sessions that interested me. Two were being presented by Adam Carroll, who I knew from previous experience would be an interesting speaker. His first workshop on creating effective presentations didn't disappoint. But as I was about to head off to his second workshop of the day, which was entitled "From Vision to Reality", it suddenly hit me that I don't have a vision; I feel like I've been meandering through life lately. I ended up skipping the session, thinking to myself that it wouldn't be too useful if I don't even have a vision I want to make real.

My lack of vision has been bugging me since Saturday. I keep finding myself thinking about it when I have downtime. I have come to a few realizations so far:

1. I'm happy and satisfied with my personal relationships including my husband, family and friends. So at least that can be excluded as a source of my current state.

2. I think the source of my feeling traces back to when I worked for Big Bad, specifically the really bad performance review he gave me around this time last year. I've spent the year since telling myself that his opinion didn't matter and I should let it all just roll off my back. But when I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that it has had a lingering effect. As much as I've tried to leave it in the past, I haven't been able to. It really stung to hear that I'm a crap prosecutor who shouldn't abandon the field altogether yet, but that I was teetering on the verge. It stung even more that the two other supervisors present, who also had the right to participate in that review, didn't say a word in my defense and just advised me to "let it blow over". When the people who are supposed to mentor you don't believe in you and make it widely known, it's hard to believe in yourself. When all people expect from you is crap, it becomes easy to fall into complacency and only perform to that low standard.

But despite all this I don't hate what I do. I just have not-so-great feelings about some of my co-workers and management. I feel like I need a fresh start. The seemingly easy answer would be to just change jobs, but we all know that's easier said than done. First off, the economy sucks and there are a glut of lawyers who went to better schools and have better credentials than I do flooding the market. Even when/if the economy improves, pedigree is still very important in law hiring and I just don't have it. Secondly, even switching to another county would be very difficult at this point with the amount of seniority I have. Plus, from what I hear, pretty much every DA's office has as much trouble with gossip, back stabbing and general wackiness that my current one does. Three, again, the economy sucks. What kind of spoiled bitch am I to complain about my job when so many people are in dire financial straits?

When I keep thinking about how to get out, all it leads to are the reasons to stay in. And I'd need to stay in at least another 29 years to maximize my pension benefits. FML. Need to win lotto (which is not a realistic vision) stat.

3. Somehow my attitude and feelings related to my job have seeped into my approach to outside activities. Feeling mediocre from 8:30 to 5 for so long has made me feel mediocre at things like ice skating, blogging, working out, cooking, housekeeping, decorating, etc. I feel like I can't excel at anything, so instead I'm just doing the bare minimum to get by. My motto lately seems to be "Why bother?". Please spare me the postive mental attitude stuff; I've tried but I feel like I'm just kidding myself.

So this is me, being emo. I don't have a lot of answers yet, but identifying the issues is the start of solving them, right?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

It's Founder's Day!

Happy 102nd birthday Delta Sigma Pi! You have come a long way since your founding (thank goodness otherwise most people I know would not have been allowed to join). I am grateful for the opportunities you have given me, especially meeting people who I know will be lifelong friends and my favorite brother ever:

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Inevitable

I really suck at this NaBloPoMo stuff. I knew that inevitably I'd have one of those busy days where I wouldn't have much time to do anything other than prattle off a bunch of random things. I just didn't think that it would happen within the first week. Eff. So here are three things that you don't really need to know:

1. I used some of my vacation time and left work two hours early today. The main purpose is so that I could wash my hair before heading off for our evening plans. You see, I'm one of those every 3-4 day hair washers. I was totally due to wash my hair this morning and planned to, except the alarm did not go off. Argh. Not even copius amounts of dry shampoo could help. I've been sporting limp, grody locks all day and it's driving me nuts. If I waited until after the time I usually leave work, it would have set me way behind for the evening. So here I am, home early on a Friday, just to wash my hair.

2. I have always thought that saggy jeans look ridiculous on boys. I'm also not a fan of skinny jeans on boys either. But based on the kids coming into court lately, the current trend is saggy, skinny jeans. This is quite possibly the worst look of all.

3. I had a raging case of the munchies when I got home. I had some healthy, tasty options available. Bu instead I made the most ghetto-tastic nachos in the world: tortilla chips topped with Kraft shredded cheese, zapped in the microwave and topped with a packet of Del Taco sauce from our large stash. In case of emergency we may not have any useful supplies, but we'd have hot sauce for days.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The First Taste of Fall

Fall has technically been upon us for several weeks now, but it wasn't until I cooked this dish last night that I really felt like we were in the midst of fall. I think roasting squash does that to me.

Lamb Chops with Garlic & Rosemary
Full Recipe available at:
Food Network

Since it was my first time making this, I followed the recipe exactly. I didn't really make any modifications that would warrant me writing out the steps in my own words. And did you know how wrathful food bloggers are when people just copy and paste recipes? I would NOT want to step on those toes. Next time I make this dish I will cook the sauce down a bit more, since we had a ton left over.

As for the squash, I halved two small acorn squashes and scooped out the seeds. Then I filled the hollows with a pat of butter and sprinkled kosher salt, brown sugar and cayenne pepper over the tops. After roasting the squash (with the cut side facing up) for 45-55 minutes in a 400 degree oven, I let it cool slightly. Then I scooped out all the flesh (don't lose any of that melted butter) and mashed it all together in a bowl. This turned out to be super flavorful and made the condo smell great to boot. Even Jack couldn't resist the call of the squash; he grabbed the peels out of the trash while we weren't looking! He usually only does that with ribs.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bitch Please

Sometimes all it takes for me to try a new wine is an interesting label in pretty colors. I know the photos suck, but you'll just have to trust me that it's a pretty shade of pink.

I knew I was going to blog about this wine when I bought it at my new favorite wine store Total Wine. I couldn't wait to use the title. ;-) Here is the space where I had hoped to write, "I'd like some more Bitch please." Except that the wine, much like my photos, kinda sucked. Even after being poured through my trusty Vinturi, the wine tasted thin and acidic. How an earlier vintage rated highly is beyond me. At least it was under $10.

What I really should be bitching about is Verizon's internet service. It is consistently hit-or-miss between the hours of roughly 8pm until 10pm. Their tech support has never been able to figure out why. While not ideal, this usually this works out alright for me. I have use of the computer from the time I get home until dinner, which is usually around 8. Then Eddie gets to play his computer games while the internet is spotty. But due to an busy evening and poor planning on my part, I never found a good time to post yesterday. I kept getting kicked off. Which means I failed NBPM of day 3. Day 3 people! Just call me loser.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Book Challenge: October Recap

45. Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen

46. Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

47. The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory

48. Cause Celeb by Helen Fielding [So the backstory here is that I had wanted to read this book years ago, when Ms. Fielding was in the midst of all her Bridget Jones glory. But parts of the storyline seemed a bit too close to my own life experiences at the time. Now, years later, I figured I could read it without cringing too much at some of the parallels. Then the ex-boyfriend who this book reminded me of e-mailed me out of the blue after six years. What timing.]

49. Time of My Life by Alison Winn Scotch [I had wanted to read this as soon as Y_L had posted about it on her
blog. It sounded intriguing: What would and could you do if you found yourself in your past armed with knowledge from your future self? Of course my name came up on the hold list for this one right after I got that e-mail.]

50. The It Girl #8: Adored by Cecily von Ziegesar

51. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

52. The Wedding Girl by Madeleine Wickham

Sound the horns! Drop the confetti! Pop the champagne! After a dreadfully slow start, I have reached my goal with two full months to spare. But the reading doesn't stop here. I have a full stack of books fresh from the library awaiting me. Let's see if I can make it to 65 by the end of the year.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Maybe This Will Get Me Back On Track

It's no secret that I fell off the blogging wagon back in March and never quite got fully back on board. I don't think it was a lack of material that did me in; it was breaking what had become a habit. Last week I started seeing mentions of NaBloPoMo on various blogs and knew that it would be a good way to get back into the habit. My decision to participate was sealed when FCD said that she would also be participating and that we could be each other's support.

NBPM isn't the only 30-in-30 challenge I'm doing this month. I have also committed myself to doing 30 workouts in 30 days with a certain group of inspirational ladies. While I started off strong and got a head start on on that one yesterday, I'm already fizzling out. I got completely trashed last night and woke up with the worst hangover ever! Well, it's probably not actually the worst, but it's been so long since I've had one that it completely and utterly sucks. Maybe I can handle some yoga later, but for right now staying still seems like a good idea.