3.5.15

perry's.























Slowly, very slowly, I've been eating my way through the sandwich menu at Perry's. I started about a year ago, and by now I think I've tried about 8 of the 19 options. Favorites so far: tempeh (€2.50, not pictured) lamb meatballs (€2.50, not pictured) and shrimp with long beans (€4, pictured at bottom). Their pom is good, their bakkeljauw is good....it's all been at least good, most of it is great. This one right here is the artificially red fa chong, Chinese chicken sausage (€3).



embedded.



Hypothetical planning map for possibly upcoming westbound road trip from Phoenix to the North Coast of California. Las Vegas is there only as an overnight stop, ok? Nothing to worry about. Death Valley: hopefully not an overnight stop. The idea was to end up in Mendocino because I have very fond memories of a long weekend I spent there by myself in the mid-90s, but some research has made it sound like it's not the same place anymore: hit hard by economic turmoil, many businesses have closed, etc. Most importantly there's nowhere good to eat anymore. So Thelma I just don't know, we'll just end up somewhere over that way, maybe Albion. All of this is up in the air anyway, except for the Tioga Mobil Gas Mart (Wikipedia entry), I'm seeing that. And there'll be a visit to a Waffle House, also non-negotiable.

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30.4.15

tostiproeftest.


















As part of my wonderful new inburgeringscursus, I've been eating a lot of tostis. After years of no tostis. That is not a euphemism. Regardless: a mind like mine tends to compare things.

There seems to be some kind of direct correlation between the inclusion of a pointless and inedible garnish (unappetizing slices of unseasoned cucumber and tomato) and the badness of the tosti. Without exception the best tostis so far have come on a plate by themselves with regular tomato ketchup as their only companion.

OK, here they are, ranked:

APPROACHING GREATNESS
Cafe Atlantis, Groningen
Gambrinus, Amsterdam
Cafe Thijssen, Amsterdam (pictured above)

OK I GUESS
Cafe De Sigaar, Groningen. A perfectly good tosti demoted/ruined by using a weird ketchup.
Pilsvogel, Amsterdam
Kafé België, Utrecht

















ACTIVELY BAD
Moeke Vaatstra, Zuidwolde: giant and styrofoamy, like a stage prop served with curry ketchup, the whole thing was a conceptual mistake (pictured below)
Cafe De Oude Wacht, Groningen: zero effort except for the tasteless garnish of two-day-old cucumber slices
Huis De Beurs, Groningen: less than zero effort, also featuring a tasteless garnish. Ultimately worse due to its lack of, well, cheese, and its ridiculous €4.00 price tag (pictured above)


















THE WORST
Cafe De Spuyt, Amsterdam: insultingly shoddy, not even in a funny way: less than zero effort but also stale, barely warm and completely tasteless, the ketchup was way better than the sandwich (pictured below).























TARGETS
Caulils, Amsterdam (more info, pictured below)
De Kat in de Wijngaert, Amsterdam (I've had it before, but that was a while ago)

14.4.15

unraveled.



















Current uptick in legume consumption combined with general unmotivation prompted a quick re-examining of this normally labor-intensive recipe from the archives. In the format to be eventually outlined below, it's simple (really!) and delicious but missing one or more crunchy textural element(s) that would stop you from wishing you'd maybe gone ahead and made the hard version. The lazy fucker in me wonders if Chang's togarashi-tossed rice krispies would do the trick. The authenticity-be-damned free associator in me wonders how toasted pine nuts would be in there (pine nuts kind of look like rice krispies, Japanese food provides a precedent for using pine and soy together). The cat-despiser in me wonders why my idiot calico absolutely has to decide that the 06:00-09:00 timeslot is the perfect time to try and execute semi-acrobatic explorations of the overcrowded and obstacle-laden kitchen, explorations for which she is completely unqualified and profoundly ill-equipped, and which frequently result in one or more exciting-sounding crashes/collisions, ultimately fueling further cat-despisement.

Above: the attentive reader might notice that there's shramp in thar. I also think that fried tofu or tempeh would probably work out.

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yellow mung beans with caramelized onions, scallion oil, sweet soy sauce. 

yis, detail eventually.

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10.4.15

ambienhammered.


















Since I'm writing out here again....I realized I never brought this thread to a close.

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After finally getting off Mirtazapine this summer, which involved six weeks of SUCK, the one true benefit of it unsurprisingly went away, the Holy Grail of my adult life: instant, predictable sleep.

Which at the time seemed kind of dealable, because I was so happy to be unzombified, and because the occasional Ambien I'd taken now and then throughout 2013-2014 seemed to really work like a champ in terms of predictable unconsciousness. The one downside was the occasional mystery kitchen landscapes that would greet me in the morning, or missing leftovers that were supposed to be "for something". But really, all of this was a small price to pay for "predictable unconsciousness".

Welllllllll.....if I started taking Ambien regularly in September, let's say that by October my memory was starting to act a little weird. Like not just not remembering things that happened after I took my Ambien in the evenings, but not remembering things from the entire evening, especially if there'd been even one beer involved (which, OK, there never was, this mythical "one beer"...more like the normal VDuck two-drink minimum).

And then by November, this memory weirdness became very consistent. Not forgetting everything, but definitely regularly saying things to people and getting responses like "Really? You don't remember us talking about that?". Especially if there'd been "even one beer" involved.

Which was especially disturbing because I really don't like it when people do this to me, tell me the same shit they've already told me. Also my middle of the night behavior was becoming a bit stranger, not just food but remnants of other things laying around that didn't make any sense and that I had no recollection of doing.

And then....in December and January I had a few pretty mortifying, borderline horrifying middle-of-the-night experiences which made it really clear that a) my odd Ambien behavior was continuing to escalate and b) it could very easily have life-threatening consequences, because I was making some realllllly bad decisions without having any idea I was doing it.

So I stopped Ambien completely in January. Which means that I'm now kind of back to 2012-era sleeping, maybe a little better because I have very very few morning obligations. But yes, going to bed after midnight, waking up at 4 or 5, staying up for a bit, sleeping again til 10 or 11. I still do weird things in the middle of the night but I generally remember them in the morning.

There's one other difference: I'm still taking 14 Oxazepam per month, and they work very nicely. But I'm only allowing myself this many per month because apparently benzo addiction ain't nuthin ta fuck wit, and experience has shown that I can't be trusted to do the right thing in the middle of the night when it comes to making medication decisions. So I try to save these Oxazepams for strategically wise sleeping nights: before gigs, dates, meetings, etc. The rest of the time it's melatonin, 5-HTP, and the occasional 1/2 Unisom, which is just a shitty drug but tends to put me to sleep.

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9.4.15

canned good.
















Ummm, yeah. "In Spain last month" (I will stop using that sentence eventually, promise), I brought a separate piece of luggage with me for transporting home cheap non-gourmet canned seafood. And other stuff. In the end I felt like I wasn't bringing home enough, but I just didn't know what was good and what wasn't, you know how it is, and you hate to lug home 13 kilos of below-average calamares.

Of course this particular can is nowhere near below-average`, because fuck yeah: it's in American sauce. 














OK, so it wasn't unreservedly delicious either: turns out "American sauce" is just tomatoes and white wine. But it wasn't bad, and after a healthy pinch of crushed red pepper and a fistful of cilantro, it was pretty darn good over rice, a bargain for €1.69 or something.


















The mussels below: not worth repeating, emphasizing the least attractive qualities of mussel taste and texture, I'll let you imagine what those are. I guess this little post is going to be a reminder for "what (not) to get next time".

















The ventresca (tuna belly): I could've just filled up my entire suitcase with this, these cans cost €2 each and it's the kind of thing you easily pay four or five times that for in Amsterdam. I did most of my shopping at Mercadona, the Dirk van den Broek of Spain, and Hacendado is their house brand, it's seeming like one of the best in terms of price/quality.



31.3.15

olé.























In Ronda we remembered the need for churros too late, on our last day. We went out looking for them "first thing", but "first thing" kind of ended up being almost not morning anymore, and when we stopped to ask some old old Spanish ladies where we could find some, they basically gave us directions to somewhere that was closed and then said "But hey what's wrong with you, why would you want churros in the afternoon anyway, you need to come back tomorrow morning".

Fair enough. I guess it's like ordering a cappuccino in Italy in the afternoon, people look at you like you have a hot dog hanging out of your nose. So we left Spain without our churros, I'll have to wait to find out what "the real thing" tastes like. Pictured above are the ones from the churros truck I knew existed in Groningen but had never tried. We located it this past Saturday "morning". Not bad, not bad, but you know me, I have a bit of a fetish for "real things".

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18.3.15

españa, sunday day 5: hasta luego.

















These photos are from our way-too-early-again trip to the airport. Above: creative fencing solutions from The Captain's neighbor, I believe that's a rusty mattress frame. Below: picturesque town I don't know the name of, and being back at Schiphol with Schiphol not feeling anything like Schiphol.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about all of this.


españa, saturday day 4: "ask for our dishes out of letter"
















Ronda felt very familiar, not only visually but rhythmically: living in Siena for half a year in 2000, you got used to the busloads of tourists showing up at 10 or 11 in the morning, cluelessly oozing their way through the streets in disoriented, overwhelmed clumps until 18:00, then rushing through a 45-minute dinner and being gone by 19:00.

Ronda seemed very much the same way. We encountered no tourists after dark until we ended up going to Casa Maria for our final meal out in Ronda. This was the place that the Nelske said was kind of special and that we should check it out "but she hadn't been there in a long time" (not foreshadowing this time), and I looked on TripAdvisor and found out it was "#1 of 183 Restaurants in Ronda", which is not always a good thing, but it does usually seem to mean that you'll have a pretty good customer service experience and decent food.

So we went to Casa Maria after tapas at Almocábar, and were led upstairs to the dining room, where immediately a couple of warning bells went off, triggered by (for starters) the enormous English menu on the wall:


















Which didn't used to be there. Also the three other tables with diners at them were speaking Americano really loudly, at each other. In other words, three tables full of Americans who had been strangers when they started the meal were now bonded by proximity, tourism and volume, and were kind of barking/howling/whining at each other the way my adorable countrymen seem to do.

That feels harsh. But they're the only people in the restaurant, sitting one foot away from each other, literally shouting with strained but obligatory enthusiasm and camaraderie. Timewise I was really grateful that they were discussing the desserts that were in front of them ("Oh. My. God. These. Cherries. Are. Sooooooo. Boozy!!!!!! I swear to God if I have any more of them I'm going to be totally WASTED!!!" Peals of laughter. "I know, right?" "They're going to have to carry us out of here!!!" Which seemed unlikely given the sizes of everyone involved and the comparatively svelte dimensions of the staircase, but OMG that sounds so bitchy!!!!).

There were no Spaniards in the room. And the regulation Spanish tapas bar TV that was present was playing some kind of baaad internet radio, no images. And though we'd just had tapas at Almocábar, our waitress really really really wanted us to order 4 plates of food. Un poco de todo.

The whole thing was weird, and a little pressurized, and felt 100% like a tourist trap. But as the Captain said, "Well, really, what can we do at this point. We get the poco de todo", so we did, and....somehow it was all really delicious. expertly roasted asparagus (asparagus season just started); queso frito con mermelata (fried goat cheese with quince marmalade); pan con tomate y sal de volcán ) bread with tomato and volcanic salt; and fabas con trufa y piñones (fava beans with pine nuts and a shitload of black truffle). The Americans left, some actual Spanish people showed up. We had a nice dinner I think. Afterwards the Captain re-connected with the owner/chef ("Hey you're the vegetarian from Norway who lived in the old farmhouse"...mmm, kind of) they sent us off into the night with a bottle of their house wine. Etc.

More later.