Netflix, Croupier and Gene Generation

November 26th, 2010 by admin

A year or two ago, I subscribed to Blockbuster Online. I didn’t have a really good reason to do it, but probably because I love being different. But, for awhile, it was pretty convienent. I got 3 movies at a time, plus I could trade in at the local Blockbuster and immediately get another three movies. At my prime, I could go through nine movies a month.
But, then I got lazy. The closest Blockbuster closed. Redboxes started opening up allover the place, and my little portable DVD player died. So, for the last six months or so I have been paying Blockbuster for no good reason.
So, I took the plunge, and I jumped ship to Netflix. That night, I rated 1015 movies Today, I watched two random movies on Instant Watch.

First, there was Croupier. Clive Owen with a bunch of other people. It was really dull.  No one seemed to care about the movie, it was just incredibly detached and unmemorable. In fact, this is the second time I have seen this movie. After every scene I said to myself, “This must have been when I stopped watching” since I had no memory of what would happen next. I really hope I don’t forget this movie, and watch it again.

I decided it was time to change gears, so next I watched The Gene Generation. Ling Bai and a bunch of people in a futuristic thriller action adventure. In many ways the opposite of Croupier. Lots of things happened.  The acting was atrocious. Nothing made any sense.  But it tried, it tried so very hard… It tried to have character development, but only in the most childish predictable way.  It tried to create an interesting post-apocalyptic world, but only in a “Hey, I have watched Blade Runner, Lord of the Rings, and some Gieger art… I’m sure it’ll be awesome if I mashed it together with some Firefly.”  It tried to have exciting action sequences, but didn’t really understand the whole concept of “choreography.”

So, right now I’m pretty much oh for two.

Pea Ice Cream

October 10th, 2010 by admin

I love peas.  I have a long standing theory that peas make everything better.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that peas are the greatest food ever — I’m just saying that this equation is true:

X + peas > X

I have done a number of different experiments in the past:

  1. Peas  with Macaroni and Cheese (Add in some tuna, and it’s heavenly)
  2. Peas with Spaghetti and Marinara
  3. Peas in Burgers
  4. Peas on Pizza
  5. Peas with Peas (More peas!  Delicious!)

All of tests were wild successes.  Dinner and lunch have been defeated.  But, there was always the question, “What about dessert?”  Pea Ice Cream?  Is that heresy?

Note: All of the charts and graphs are using Tableau. This is neat, because it allows all of the graphs to be interactive. Click on different parts of the graph to do extra filtering or get extra information. On the flip side, the main page may take a moment to load and requires JavaScript.

Update: Tableau, although an awesome tool for making graphs, is not that awesome for embedding. It doesn’t work with Google Chrome, and it takes forever to load on any other web browser. I replaced the graphs with static images. If you want interactive graphs, click on them

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Dessert Island

September 26th, 2010 by admin

Final!  X Marks the spot

I was invited to a pirate party last night.  There was a costume contest, a scavenger hunt, three legged peg legged races, grog, anti-scurry shakes, along with other adventures planned.  This brought up the question:  As a guest, what do I bring?  I’m not much of a costume person, and the drinks seemed covered (Except for rum, I couldn’t really think of a piratey drink).  So, I thought a dessert was the way to go.

So, I went to Price Chopper to get some ingredients.  I didn’t have much of a plan, but I thought the super market might inspire me.  I already had a lurking suspicion I wanted to make a cake.  To be more exact, a desert island cake.  Wandering the isles, I had two ideas:  A traditional cake, or a carrot cake.  The carrot cake was appealing since I could then use a carrot as the obligatory palm tree.  But, I couldn’t find a mix for carrot cake, and the recipes looked too involved for my time frame (I only had three hours to complete the cake).

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Three Accordions and a Trapezee

September 11th, 2010 by admin

Last night, I went to the Wiyos’ Gamville event last night.  It was awesome on so many levels.  First of all, Club Helsinki was amazing.  I’m not much of a bar person, but it’s a very neat place.  We were able to watch the whole show at our own table.  We had fried chickpeas, fried pickles, seared tuna, and roasted garlic.  They were pretty good, very good compared to most bar food.

But then the show started.  The Wiyos are pretty cool.  I have never heard them before, but I’m not particularly good at describing music, so if you’re curious check them out on Nippertown.  Then they got a pretty impressive beat boxer to be their drums.  I’m not a big fan of beat boxers, but he was real good.  In some ways, a beat boxer is a lot more appropriate than real drums, since he didn’t overwhelm the rest of the music.

The rest of the show just got weirder and cooler throughout the night.  After some bands played, then a belly dancer came out.  Then the intermission, and then a trapazee artist who, was actually an accordion player earlier in the night.  All of the band were pretty good, and were completely different.

All in all, it was completely awesome.  If you have the opportunity to see them, or their variety show, do it.

Alan Ruins the Internet

September 8th, 2010 by admin

I like internet recipes.  When cooking, I am often intimidated without something to start with.  But, at the same time, I find recipes too constricting.  I never listen to the recipes very carefully.  Sometimes, it works out, but not always.

I saw this recipe for some fresh marinara sauce.  But, it required four pounds of tomatoes.  I had a little over a pound and a half.  It asked me to mince my carrots, but I like big chunky pieces of carrots.  I also had some husk cherries, which are really just tiny little ultra sweet tomatoes.  While cooking, it smelled delicious: Fresh, and delicious.  It looked pretty good:

But, the taste was eh.  Not bad, but not great.  The husk cherries were just too sweet, and overwhelmed stuff.  And I think I cooked it too long, so the freshness went away.  I probably should have either cooked it longer to let the flavors really come together, or less to make it taste fresher.

Next, I tried to make some Moroccan Chicken.  This one was pretty much doomed from the start.  I didn’t have any chicken thighs.  I couldn’t find my oregano.  I didn’t have any preserved lemons.  A smart man would have given up.  I am not very smart.

I used chicken breasts instead of thighs.  I used real lemons instead of preserved.  The opinions were split on whether fresh lemons were appropriate:  “No, fresh lemons cannot be substituted for preserved lemons — they are totally different.” or “I just tried this dish with fresh lemons … and it came out quite well.” So, I was impatient and I made it:

It really had a lot of potential.  But it was just too bitter.  I am very touchy about bitterness, and I found it overwhelming.  I’m pretty sure the hour of cooking the lemon skins filled the entire dish with too much bitterness.

Next time?  I am going to try a different recipe for the tomato sauce, maybe this.  For the chicken, I think I’m going to try again, but with lemon juice instead of the whole lemons.

Accidental Korma

August 30th, 2010 by admin

Serious Eats had an article about curried meatballs with tomatoes.  I had a bunch of tomatoes from my CSA, so this was quite fascinating.  But, even though I had a bunch of tomatoes, I was missing some of the ingredients.  I didn’t have any cardamon, and no fresh ginger.  I also threw in some carrots, since carrots are awesome.  I also added some fresh spicy peppers because, well, they too are awesome.

Things were going pretty well until I reached step four that told me to run the sauce through a food mill.  I do not have a food mill.  I also prefer chunky sauces over smooth sauces, so I ignored that step.

The sauce:

Curried Meatball SauceCurried Meatballs Sauce

The meatballs:

Curried MeatballsCurried Meatballs

All together now:

Curried MeatballsCurried MeatballsCurried Meatballs

The results?   Not too bad.  Tasted just like a delicious korma.  Except much spicier than I get at most restaurants.  Also the meatballs mixed things up.  The next day, it was even more delicious.  My only regret is that I should have added peas and potatoes, it would have been much more exciting.

Eggplant Caviar

August 29th, 2010 by admin

My CSA has been forcing me to try a lot of foods I don’t particularly like.  Eggplant is one of those foods.  I don’t know what it is about eggplant, but it doesn’t really do it for me.  So I needed to find something to do about it.  David Lebovitz had a post about eggplant caviar.  I love hummus, so it sounds fascinating. So, I tried making it:

Eggplant Curry

The results?  Tastes like eggplant.  I probably shouldn’t be that surprised, but I was hoping that it would make a magical transformation into something awesome.  Oh well.

On an unrelated note, my account somehow got infected with some wacky Russian spyware or something.  I’m not really sure what happened, but it’s a little scary.  I think I cleaned out all of the edits, and I have changed my password, but it is scary that it happened at all.


August 14th, 2010 by alan

On Friday, we decided to take a day trip to Williamstown, Mass.  The weather was beautiful, the downtown was quaint, the Williams College Museum of Art was free and pretty well stocked (I found my new favorite artist, William E Edgerton), the A Frame Bakery had some awesome apple cake, and Sushi Thai Garden was pretty cheap and good.

But, the two highlights were The Red Herring restaurant and the Williamstown Theatre Festival.  Now, we didn’t actually go to either of these places, but they were still quite memorable.  When we arrived in town, it was around noon.  We wandered about main street trying to decide on lunch.  There was an Indian place, a Thai place, and a place called ‘The Red Herring Victuals.’  So we decided to check out the red herring.  They, of course, were closed.  The owner wandered by as we were at the door and told us that they would open at 1pm.  I have my doubts… Google thinks their website is this, two of the three reviews on yelp are from the same people… I just think the Red Herring is aptly named, and is simply a red herring.

The other amusement was the Williamstown Theatre Festival.  We didn’t see a play or anything, but how can you be in a town and be named the ‘WTF?’  Their website even uses the term ‘WTF’!

…theatre you’ve come to expect from the WTF. Period. [...] Each summer, WTF presents a full theatrical season compressed into just two months.  [...] with each WTF production [...]
WTF?  Forget the fact that they are just a theatre house and not even a festival, but has no one clued them in?  Is it on purpose?  What is going on?

CSA Week 7

August 8th, 2010 by alan

This week was slightly more exciting, as the variety of food stuffs is changing.  We got a little pile of tomatoes and pears this week.  I’m not much of a raw-tomato afficianado, so I haven’t tried them yet.  The pears are pretty yummy.  Put them on a salad with lettuce, cucumber and balsamic dressing… they had a little bit of a grit to them, but they were still pretty great.

This weekend, we made some chicken curry.  Except I used no fat yogurt, and we added potatoes and carrots in with the onions, and then a zucchini and summer squash near the end, and used tenderloins instead of thighs, and I didn’t have any ginger, and I just threw in some peppers — I don’t know what kind they were.

(That delectable bread was some left overs from Mangia)

In other words, I made a recipe that vaguely resembled the cooking instructions.  The end result was pretty good.  With all of the added vegetables, we should have added more yogurt.  But, even though it was slightly watery, the vegetables made it pretty awesome.

CSA Week 5 and 6

July 29th, 2010 by alan

CSA Week 5 was kind of weak, to be honest…

The green beans were pretty good.  The dill was nice.  But I am sick of squash.  Probably because I don’t particularly like it at all.  And eggplant scares me.  It’s all purple and weird.  Most of my usage of the CSA this week was in salads.  Good salads, but nothing to write home about.  Also, last week I got The Flavor Bible.  That book is awesome.  It told me that dill went well with grean beans, and it did.  I threw some cashews in there too.  Pretty awesome.

This week my co-CSAer is going to Puerto Rico, so he didn’t want his half of the share.  I gave away a good amount of food (Most of the zucchini and squash), but I kept 90% of the potatoes and the entire onion.

I don’t know what the big bok choi looking thing.  Maybe they’re fordhook?  Carmen?  Who knows.  I haven’t tried them yet, so it’s still a mystery!  I did put the potatoes, onion, basil, garlic and some chicken in tinfoil and threw it on the grill.  The chicken ended up a little dry, but the veggies were quite nice.  Onions were still pretty flavorful and the potatoes were cooked almost perfectly

Yum.  I still have the eggplant from last week.  I think I’m going to make a little bit of eggplant caviar… Then I need to figure out how to use my half pint of currants, plus I have a lot of beets left…. Not sure what to do about those bad boys either.