Saturday, March 15, 2014

What a giant ice cream tasting looks like

Maybe it was because we also had two pies and two cakes, or maybe it was the fact that the pints of ice cream outnumbered the guests, but whatever the reason, we did not even come close to finishing all the ice cream at my birthday party.

We did, though, enjoy the many flavors, and the rows of pints made a pretty sight.

Along this side, we have the chocolates and vanillas.

Click on an image to see a larger version.

From this angle, you can see all the other flavors.

I haven't even come close to sampling them all.  I suspect few people did.

What we all tasted, however, we very much enjoyed.

I sincerely thank all the great ice cream artists at The Parlour in Durham, Jenis in Columbus, Salt & Straw in Portland, and our local Ben & Jerry's store. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

It's my birthday... I'm staying offline as much as possible and enjoying what remains of the day after a very long and delightful sleep.

While I'm away, enjoy a little Blue Rodeo, this one from their latest album, In Our Nature.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

[ONE] remains the area's best restaurant

Earlier night, a group of us headed to [ONE] for our second special tasting menu from its fine chefs, Kim Floresca and Daniel Ryan.  We were hoping that the amazing meal we'd eaten there before Christmas was not a fluke and that we would again enjoy something special. 

[ONE] did not disappoint us.  The food was creative, beautiful, and most importantly, consistently delicious. 

Click on an image to see a larger version.

As is the case at many restaurants that feature modernist cuisine, the menu serves only to hint at what you be eating.  You can't really know what a course will be until it appears.  (I say that as a compliment, not a criticism; I love the magic show of a great tasting menu.)

Before the first course, though, we received four different amuses, each delightful.  I liked them all, though my favorite for sheer fun was probably this riff on deviled eggs.

I'd never tasted swordfish belly, but after this light, springy dish, I'll eagerly try it in the future.

From this garden of fish and veggies, we moved to a course that appeared to come from the woods.

And on and on the meal went, with the chefs even throwing in an unplanned beef dish that was incredibly flavorful.

If you live in this area or are visiting, and if you love good food, do yourself a flavor and check out [ONE].

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Aziz Ansari

delivered a very funny comedy show Tuesday night at the Carolina Theatre in Durham. Mixing anecdotes from his own life with observations about the way people behave in our highly connected world, he had the audience eating out of his hands for his entire performance.  I would have cut a few minutes out of one section, because they began to feel repetitive, but that's a small quibble about an otherwise strong show. 

If he comes to your area, check him out.  (You can find his tour schedule on his site.)

His opening act, Moshe Kasher, was previously unfamiliar to me, but after Kasher's very entertaining performance, I'd definitely go see him again.  Having said that, I later checked out a few of his clips online, and none of them struck me as being as strong as this show, so I suggest you not judge him by those alone.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The more I see about this movie

the more I want to see it.


Yes, I know the verbal interplay with the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is silly, but I still enjoyed it. 

I may have to go to a midnight show the night before opening day. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

How to think like me: Ordering ice cream for a party

Over the years, many people have asked me, "How the hell did you decide that?", "What made you do that?", and other similar questions.  I recently drew from these questions the obvious conclusion: Many people would like to think the way I do.

To help out those folks, I'm launching with his post a new series: How to think like me.  With luck, these little blog entries will help a broad range of people learn to think the way I do and to become as happy and analytical as I am.

A public service indeed.

Each post will pose a question, some possible answers, and then explain the correct one--which is, of course, the one I chose.

We'll begin with a fun decision that I had to confront recently: How to order the right amount of ice cream for a party.

I'm holding a party Friday.  Twenty-two folks will attend it.  I'm holding another, smaller event Saturday, and a dozen or so folks will attend it.  For the Friday event, we will also have two pies and two cakes.  I decided to add a "best of the best" ice cream tasting to each party, with ice cream from Salt and Straw, Jeni's, The Parlour, and even Ben & Jerry's (Chocolate Therapy).  The plan is to offer a selection of chocolates, vanillas, and a few other (just a few; I never like to go overboard) flavors. 

The question is, how many pints do you order?  Is it

  1. A scoop of ice cream should be a quarter of a cup, and a pint is two cups, so I'll get 8 scoops per pint. With 22 people one night and 12 the next, that's 34 scoops, or 34/8 = 4+ pints, so call it 5 pints.
  2. That math is all well and good, but I have 2 pies and 2 cakes, so 4 pints should be plenty.
  3. Oh, come on, no one eats a measly quarter of a cup of ice cream. Even a small scoop is half a cup, so I better go for 10 pints.  
  4. What if everyone wants to try every flavor?  What if they're all starving for ice cream?  Plus, what about all those cool chocolates and vanillas?  I'd better order two pints of each flavor to be safe.  Wait.  What's that?  There are 12 interesting flavors.  So be it; it's not like I chose this. 24 pints isn't really all that much. I mean, we have two whole nights, right?

A is clearly not the answer, because no one can survive on that small an amount of ice cream.

B is obviously the product of dementia.  Four pints for all those people?  Insanity.

C is at least hearing whispers of the voice of reason, but it's ignoring the crucial tasting desire of so many partygoers.

Which brings us to D, the only rational thought process and the only rational choice, which, of course, is the way I thought and the choice I made. 

See how easy it is to learn to think like me?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

An rises to the challenge

A couple of years ago, I wrote an entry in which I said that Cary's An restaurant still had a long way to go.  I noted that Executive Chef Steven Devereaux Greene had taken over the place but that little had changed to make it more than ordinary.  I also pointed out that he had controlled the kitchen for only a short time, so perhaps he had not yet been able to turn it around.

A few days ago, Chef Greene contacted me after reading that entry and suggested that he had indeed remade An and I should check it out.  Though it was only two days ahead, I suggested Saturday night, and he agreed.

So, last night a group of us showed up at An to try a special tasting menu that he had prepared for us.  With so little notice, the menu was largely dishes from the current or next menu, but that was fine by me; we'd taste the best of what he had on offer.

After a delightful eight-course meal, which you can see here,

Click an image to see a larger version.

I am extremely happy to report that, under Chef Greene's leadership, An rose to the challenge and produced a wonderful, top-drawer meal.  Every single course was delicious and blended a variety of flavors into a delightful whole.

The salmon tartare, for example, was beautiful, subtle, and delicious.

I liked every single bite of every single dish, but I have to show you one more course because it was simply so much fun--and incredibly tasty. 

Called simply "Pork & Bun," this delightful offering will appear on the upcoming spring menu.  Inside the tiny steamer was an absolutely perfect steamed bun.  You opened it, added the sous-vided pork belly and the bits of veggies, and made your own little pork bun.  Fun, and so very tasty. 

It's always a treat to eat such a top-drawer meal.  It's an additional gift to see a talented chef--and make no mistake, Steven Devereaux Greene is a very talented chef--raise a kitchen from ordinary to extraordinary.

I must also note the service team, which I had found sorely lacking in my earlier post.  The servers tonight turned in a very good performance despite our group's large size and three different menu versions (most of us eating anything on offer, but one going vegetarian and one pescetarian).  We may well have received special considerations given the nature of the meal, but regardless the service team demonstrated that An has improved dramatically in this area as well.

I will definitely be going back again and posing the kitchen another tasting menu challenge, next time with plenty of notice.

Well done, Chef Greene and the entire team at An.


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