Saturday, December 24, 2016

So it's almost the end of the year...

... and I have nothing to talk about.

No, really. I don't cover politics here, and talking too much about my professional life would mean disrespecting a lot of peoples' privacy.

I've tried some new recipes, and that's what I'm choosing to remember as the calendar year winds down. I'm also taking occasional classes in Korean cuisine, which has been unexpectedly awesome. So, without further ado, the best new things I've made:

Kimchi Jeon from the NYT: crisp, spicy, not too greasy... exactly what I was looking for in a spicy kimchi pancake.

Slow Cooker Chicken Chili from SmittenKitchen: easy, tasty, fairly healthy... a winner in all respects.

Goey Apple Pie from SeriousEats: I love cooking the apples ahead of time, because it means you can pull the pie out of the oven the instant the crust gets golden.

Bosc Pear Cranberry Orange Sauce from USAPears: easy, delicious, and not as intense as pure cranberry sauce. Nicole helped me make this and it was a huge hit at Thanksgiving.

Magic Apple Plum Cobbler from SmittenKitchen: easy, delicious, popular with the students

Sugar Cookies from King Arthur Flour: another thing I cooked with Nicole. These were tasty, easy, and gorgeous.

Spicy Garlic Eggplant and Ground Pork from TwoRedBowls: a bit of bother, but totally worth it on a cold day

Masala Chicken and Vegetable Stew (Nightshade Free) from NourishingMeals: I did an elimination diet this summer. It mostly just sucked, but this recipe was one of the few bright spots.

Shortcut Moussaka from the NYT: I love Moussaka but it's a ton of work, done the usual way. This was delicious, if a little too salty, and took only a fraction of the usual time.

Limeade from SeriousEats: this stuff is AMAZING! Totally worth the work, in my opinion...

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sonnet: Against Entropy

The worm drives helically through the wood
And does not know the dust left in the bore
Once made the table integral and good;
And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
The names of lovers, light of other days
Perhaps you will not miss them. That's the joke.
The universe winds down. That's how it's made.
But memory is everything to lose;
Although some of the colors have to fade,
Do not believe you'll get the chance to choose.
Regret, by definition, comes too late;
Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.

by John M. Ford 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A quick wrap-up of some things...

So the Hugo Awards have been awarded. I was at my older son's concert at the time, so I was sneaking peaks at Twitter in between pieces. I'm pleased with the list of winners even though it doesn't quite match up with my list of preferences.

I've discovered some great new-to-me blogs, which I'm writing down here for anyone looking for interesting stories or great recipes:

Naomi Kritzer
Ursula Vernon/T. Kingfisher
Pear Nuallak
Lady and Pups
Two Red Bowls
O & O Eats

I spent 17 days glued to the television, watching the Rio Olympics. I'm sorry I never got to see any Modern Pentathlon. Gymnastics was amazing on the women's side, frustrating on the men's side. Equestrian was just insane, particularly the day they were doing Steeplechase in the drizzle. Sandra Boynton's son, Devin McEwan, competed in Canoe Doubles Slalom with Casey Eichfeld and came in 10th.

Also, we went to Canada for a week and I haven't blogged about that at all yet. Next post, perhaps.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Reading for the Hugo Award, part 9: Best Professional Editor (long form)

Liz Gorinsky: I've only read three of her novels (Radiance, Valour and Vanity, and The Snow Queen) but I loved all three of them. I'm particularly impressed by Radiance, which is a complex and difficult novel and must have required care to shepherd it to publication.

Sheila Gilbert: I haven't read any of the novels on her list, but she works with some authors I really like (cough cough Seanan McGuire)

Jim Minz (Baen): I haven't read any of the novels on his list, but it's a respectable group

Neither Vox Day nor Toni Weisskopf chose to submit supporting information. I'm very curious about whether Toni edits Lois McMaster Bujold, which IMHO would be a huge mark in her favor. Those books are beautifully polished! Unfortunately, that information isn't readily available for someone with my poor search skills.

Reading for the Hugo Awards, part 8: Best Professional Editor (short form)

I have only a mild idea what an editor does. I guess in the case of an anthology, one can point to both the actual editing and also the selection of stories included. I'm really just feeling my way here, and I have a nasty feeling that I may make some mistakes with these later categories. All five candidates have been nominated before, which gives me an odd confidence that I can't really get this one wrong...

Neil Clarke:editor of Clarkesworld and Forever. Oh - and he's a very clever man, carefully detailing all the stories that he's edited that are short-listed for awards. A whole lot of my favorite stories of the past year are on this list, a fact which has just moved him to top of my list. He's been nominated for this Hugo before, but has never won.

Ellen Datlow: I've been reading works edited by her for, literally, as long as I've been reading in the field. I love the short stories she listed and think she did a great job of selecting them. She has previously been nominated for a Hugo in editing, and won multiple times.

Sheila Williams: looking over the issue of Asimov makes me understand just how much I like her selections of stories, too. She's got multiple Hugo nominations in editing and a recent pair of wins.

John Joseph Adams: editor of Lightspeed, which is another source of great stories. He has one previous nomination.

Jerry Pournelle: editor of There Will Be War Volume X, which I've mostly read by this point as I waded through the short stories and novelettes. Sadly, I don't see this volume as evidence of editorial skill. The e-book itself has multiple kerning errors. I also think the stories are second-rate or worse.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Reading for the Hugo Awards, part 7: Best Fan Writer

Best Fan Writer: all five submitted sample articles for consideration. Mike is the only one of my nominees who made the ballot, and as such is naturally at the top of my list. I was surprised that three of the five are primarily interested in media rather than literature, although props to Jeffro for writing about the intersection between the two fields.

Mike Glyer: long time writer/compiler of File 770 and previous Hugo nominee. I've always enjoyed his writing and I think he does a good job of analysis on the Baldwin issue, for example.

Jeffro Johnson: gives us a strong interview and two pieces of analysis. I don't agree with his politics, particularly with regards to his views on HP Lovecraft, but I respect his writing ability. All three articles are about the influences of SFF novels on the gaming community.

Shamus Young: writes a nice introduction to his work and submits one long analytical article. I haven't played Mass Effect so I gave up on the article about 14 pages in.

Morgan Holmes: Send in a bunch of short articles. Writing style is terse and not particularly reflective. At least she's writing about books and authors instead of movies and video games...

Douglas Ernst: does movie reviews. None of them is particularly long or introspective.

Reading for the Hugo Awards, part 5: Best Fan Artist

I have no familiarity with this area, so once again I'm going purely by what came in my voter packet, supplemented by what I can find online. Neither disse86 nor Christian Quinot submitted anything. Unfortunately for me, they're also the two whose work I liked best (from what I found online).

Matthew Callahan, AKA "the guy with the Star Wars miniatures" has cute stuff and a nice visual style. I like his work on a personal level but don't know how to compare it with the other works because he's working in a different medium.

disse86: Does very dark work, rather reminiscent of HR Giger or John Jude Palencar on a smaller scale. Not to my personal taste, but I recognize the talent this takes.

Christian Quinot: fantasy painter. Looks like he might illustrate gaming cards. Not a style I really enjoy, but competently done.

Kukuroyu: a cartoonist. Not my style, but closer to it than the other artists...

Steve Stiles: a cartoonist. Not seeing what the buzz is about.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Reading for the Hugo Awards, part 6: the John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo)

The John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo): Alyssa, Brian, and Sebastien sent in sample work. Andy and Pierce didn't, probably figuring (correctly, in my case) that most libraries will have their books.

Alyssa Wong: I've been a fan of hers since late last year. She's a terrific short story writer. Leans a little more toward horror than my personal preference goes, but that's OK.

Andy Weir: author of The Martian, which I loved.

Brian Niemeler: I've been slowly wading through The Traitor's Blade and while it isn't grabbing me, I admit that it is amusing. If I can find the time to finish it before voting closes, I'll see if it gets enough better to move him above Alyssa or Andy.

Pierce Brown: I got three chapters into Red Rising and didn't like it. But I do respect the accomplishment of writing an entire trilogy that sells well.

Sebastien de Castell: I read both his short stories and didn't like either one.

Reading for the Hugo Awards, part 4: Best Professional Artist

None of my nominees made the ballot, so I am making my judgement based upon the materials provided in the voting packet. I'm going to admit that I get really irritated by finalists who don't take the process seriously. Thus, Larry Elmore who did not submit any samples, and Lars Braad Anderson who turned in only four? Not impressing me. I also wish that Anderson and Larry Rostant had turned in artwork without the overlay of the cover, or possibly had turned in both views.

Michal Karcz: beautiful stuff. Is what gets described as hyper-realist? It's primarily SF but reminds me of Michael Whelan in the 1990s.

Abigail Larson: very cute. Some of it actually caught at my emotions; I really liked "Luca Reptoid" and on second viewing, recognized that many of these illustrations match stories by HP Lovecraft. This hits me right in my sweet spot for illustration styles but I'm not sensing the same versatility shown by some of the other artists.

Larry Rostant: did the covers of a lot of great books. I had trouble stripping the artwork out of the cover, which weakened my view of his work. He seems to specialize in human figures, often off-axis. I'd like to go back and check how closely his artwork matches the author's description of the character, but I don't know if I'll have time. I went online and was able to find some of his work without words sprinkled all over it.

Lars Braad Anderson: only sent in four covers; three were spaceships and the fourth was a gorgeous winter landscape. I looked up his website and saw some really gorgeous work there. I'm currently undecided about whether I should take this into consideration, since it wasn't submitted for official consideration.

Larry Elmore: did not submit any samples. I Googled him and found a lot of nearly-nude women and a few dragons. The images are oddly static, even the ones that are supposed to be action scenes.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ten on Tuesday: 10 thinks (things) I loved about summer camp

I did not get to attend a "traditional" summer camp... my mother had no idea why anyone would want to live 8-to-a-cabin and spend the day learning to ride, swim, kayak, and shoot a bow and arrow. (Also, I'm an only child and she had some difficulty letting go.) I did ultimately go away in the summer, twice: the first time to Northwestern, where I studied Algebra II, and the second time to Hampshire College, where I studied advanced math.

Did I love it? Yes, I did! For all the following reasons...

1) Math
2) Surrounded by smart people
3) Lopsided boy-girl ratio
4) First kiss
5) Friends for life, or at least through the college era
6) Finally got my asthma correctly diagnosed
7) Friends who are boys
8) Counselors who were Really Smart Girls/Women
9) A look at life in an academic community
10) The confidence to leave home and go far away to college

I should probably explain a bit more. I spent my adolescence in a small, insular town in Indiana. Academic success was not encouraged in girls. Plus, I had acne, a mild stutter, and terrible social insecurity. Getting away for two summers really gave me a sense of what the wider world was like. When I applied to elite colleges on the East Coast, I actually knew some people who were doing the same thing, unlike my classmates in high school. Going to summer camp literally changed my life and I'm so grateful to both programs for giving me financial aid and all the encouragement I needed.

Ten on Tuesday: what I did this weekend

We were afflicted by bad weather, plus I wouldn't leave the dog at home alone, so fireworks are not on this list.

1) Ate at Ruby Tuesday. Enjoyed the salad bar and loved the crab cakes.
2) Did a lot more reading for the Hugo Awards.
3) Ate at Captain Jimmy's, a local bar. They've started to distill their own vodka and rum; we had nice house-specialty cocktails. My Cod Francaise had too much undercooked garlic but the DH liked his burger.
4) Watched a lot of Wimbledon tennis. Dominika Cibulkova had to postpone her wedding because she unexpectedly beat the #3 seed. Sam Querrey beat the Novak Dkojavik, seeded #1, in a huge upset.
5) Cooked some amazing eggplant and a cherry almond Dutch Baby.
6) Saw "Finding Dory" and loved it almost as much as I loved the first movie. I really hope they make "Finding Hank" next!
7) Put the tomatoes, basil, and zucchini plants in the raised bed garden.
8) Caught up on Scream Queens.
9) Finally finished the last season of The Mentalist.
10) Protected the little dog from all the distressing noise of Independence Day.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Reading for the Hugo awards, part 3: novelettes

"And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead" by Brooke Bolander: I think I actually tried to read this during the nominating process. It's cyberpunk, so it should be right up my alley, but something about the story just wasn't speaking to me. I pushed myself through it this time. The language gets a lot cooler about 1/3 of the way in, and the ending wraps things up nicely. A very strong story.

"Folding Beijing" by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu: really cool concept. Story goes unexpected places. Ultimately, I found it really depressing, but that kind of emotional pull means it was a good tale.

"Obits" by Stephen King: it will surprise exactly nobody that Stephen King can write the heck out of a story. This is a nice little creepy tale, with the expected unexpected consequences to having power, and a surprisingly humane ending.

"What Price Humanity?" by David VanDyke (in There Will Be War Volume X): A nice slow burn for the first 3/4 of the story. The foreshadowing was too heavy and the last couple pages were a ridiculous let-down... there was definitely a better way to end this story than just chopping it off like that! I was impressed while I was reading it, but afterward, I realized that I was irresistibly reminded of  "The Cookie Monster" by Vernor Vinge, which did the same concept better and a dozen years ago.

"Flashpoint: Titan" by CHEAH Kai Wai (in There Will Be War Volume X): A huge space battle followed by a huge infodump followed by another huge space battle. There's absolutely no character development. There's more than a whiff of racism: it's Japanese + Americans vs. Chinese, with the latter as the bad guys. There's nothing very new here, either in terms of science or plot.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Reading for the Hugo Awards, part 2: short story category

"Cat Pictures Please" by Naomi Kritzer: not quite what I consider Hugo-quality (I didn't nominate it, which means that I found five stories I liked better), but a good short story and certainly one that will not embarrass the Hugo award process. Edited to add: this just won the Locus Award, so clearly many people like this story even more than I do.

"Asymetrical Warfare" by S. R. Algernon: great SF concept, but far too short. I really wish the author had gone for a longer take on this, because this was easily my favorite concept of the five. But there just isn't enough to the actual story for me to list it first.

"Space Raptor Butt Invasion" by Chuck Tingle: this started out as a cool idea (solo astronaut on a distant planet, watching over the terraforming machines) but then took a turn for the weird with the gay dinosaur dom showing up and seducing our hero.

"Seven Kill Tiger" by Charles Shao: wow, the sheer level of racism being described by various characters in this story is appalling. The execution of the story wasn't bad, but also wasn't particularly stunning. As a science fiction idea, this is neither original nor innovative. The story itself had almost no tension, and neither of the main characters was memorable nor compelling.

"If You Were an Award, my Love" by Juan Tabo and S. Harris, wasn't included in the voter package, but I found it online. It's pretty clearly a fanfic of the very lovely and famous (infamous?) short story by Rachel Swirsky. Another reviewer has pointed out that this might be the first time a piece of fanfic got nominated for the Hugo... no idea if that's actually correct. Unfortunately, the writing on this was clunky, and required so much back-story that I gave up trying to decipher it.

Stories listed in the order I plan to vote them, although I may change my mind with further thought.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Reading for the Hugo Awards, part 1

I finally got my Hugo voting packet in the mail, so it's time to start keeping track of what I like, what I hate, and what I still need to read/view.

Novels: I've already read (and nominated! go me!) three of the five: The Fifth Season, Uprooted, and Ancillary Mercy. My voting currently would also go in that order. I now have Seveneves and will try to get The Aeronauts Windlass from the library, although I would not balk at paying paperback prices for it if necessary. Updated to add: comes out in paperback on July 5th.

Novellas: Of the five, I have only read Penric's Demon. It was great and I nominated it. I own Binti and The Builders but haven't read them yet. I would love to read Slow Bullets but frankly balked at the price - I am NOT paying novel prices for a novella, no matter how good. If it goes on sale, I will acquire it. My husband has a copy of Perfect State, so I shall borrow his phone some evening and read it.

Novelettes: I haven't read any of them yet. That will nicely fill up an afternoon.

Short Story: I read, and enjoyed, "Cat Pictures Please". I haven't read the other four, and they don't look very promising to me. Still, I don't feel right about not giving each one a chance. Fortunately... short story... not a huge time investment. I hope.

Best Related Work: I haven't read, or even heard about, any of these books. I gather that at least excerpts of all are available in the voter package, so I shall look at them and hope they do better than their titles imply.

Best Graphic Story: I read, and nominated, Sandman: Overture. I see that two others are in the packet, and two are not. Grrr.... I shall have to call around my friends to see if anyone has a copy and will let me borrow it.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): I've watched, and enjoyed, all five of these. Mad Max: Fury Road is definitely my first choice. I have to think about the other four.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): I've seen none of these. I'll have to see what's available on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Best Professional Editor (Short Form): I'm familiar with all the names, but will have to look over their included work to make a final ranking.

Best Professional Editor (Long Form): Once again, all the names are familiar. I have very little sense of how to judge an editor of a book, so I'll be doing some reading online to see how more experienced voters analyze these works. The lack of information from Toni Weisskopf probably means that she's going to get rated last, unless I'm willing to do some serious digging online.

Best Professional Artist: Not one of these names is ringing a bell, so I'll have to hope for included material, or a strong presence online.

Best Semiprozine: I regular read, and enjoy, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny Magazine, and Strange Horizons. I haven't read Daily Science Fiction or Sci Phi Journal  but both are available online, so I'm looking forward to catching up.

Best Fanzine: I regularly read File 770. I've heard bad things about Castalia House Blog but the first three entries I just read were quite entertaining. I shall have to read more. I used to read Tangent Online but drifted away from it; I no longer recall why and will gladly go look at it again. Lady Business and Subversive SF don't ring a bell, but once again... easily available... voting responsibilities... plenty of free time... will read.

Best Fancast: I don't generally do podcasts. I will try to remedy that situation.

Best Fan Writer: I'm a big fan of Mike Glyer and I sometimes read Jeffro Johnson. I've heard the other names go by before.

Best Fan Artist: I've got no familiarity with this category. Four of the five submitted sample work in the voter packet.

The John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo): I nominated both Alyssa Wong and Andy Weir for this category, and I'm delighted to see that they made it. I've heard of Pierce Brown, author of the Red Rising trilogy, but haven't read his books. Neither Sebastien de Castell nor Brian Niemeier is ringing a bell right now, but I see that they both were kind enough to include samples.

Updated to add: I have carefully avoided discussion of the "Rapid Puppies/Sad Puppies" controversy. However, a good summary of nomination patterns is provided here

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ten on Tuesday: 10 things on this summer's bucket list

I'm a school teacher, so having a bucket list for the summer really means accomplishing all the things I don't have time to do during the school year. That involves a lot of reading, movie- and TV-watching, cooking, knitting, etc. I also plan to watch as many hours of the Olympics as humanly possible...

Books I want to read:
1) Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
2) Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
3) The God Stalker Chronicles by P C Hodgell
4) The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
5) The Obelisk Gate by N K Jemisin
6) Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace
7) Fire Bound by Christine Feehan
8) The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
9) Lamentation by Ken Scholes
10) Black Wine by Candace Dorsey

Movies I want to see:
1) Star Trek Beyond
2) Independence Day: Resurgence
3) Southside with You
4) Cafe Society
5) Suicide Squad
6) Finding Dory
7) Now You See Me 2
8) Florence Foster Jenkins
9) Ice Age: Collision Course
10) Jason Bourne

Recipes I want to try:
1) Fish Cakes with Herbs and Chilies by the NYT
2) Lamb Wellington by Yotam Ottolenghi
3) Dal by Smitten Kitchen
4) Limeade by Serious Eats
5) Lasagna Soup by A Farm Girls Dabbles
6) Baked Chicken and Leek in Turmeric Coconut Sauce by She Simmers
7) Whole Wheat Milk Bread by Two Red Bowls
8) Fresh Rice Noodles by Grace Young
9) Shanghai Soup Dumplings by Epicurious
10) Ceremonial "Pigeon" Pie by Bon Appetit

TV shows I hope to watch:
1) the Olympics
2) Mentalist (yes, the TiVo has some old stuff on it)
3) Quantico
4) NCIS New Orleans
5) The Expanse
6) The Magicians
7) Crossing Lines
8) Scream Queens
9) Luther (late to the party and thank you Netflix)
10) Person of Interest

And, of course, I will spend tons of time with this little guy:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Recipe Round-up (May and early June)

I made a few great things recently (and a bunch of mediocre things.) Being on summer hols really does help with giving me the time to tackle more complex recipes...

Shortcut Moussaka from the NYT: fairly easy and very delicious

Grilled Shrimp by Kenji from Serious Eats: a little extra work but an excellent outcome. These were also great stuffed into homemade sushi the next day

Lychee Martini from Food Network: delicious way to use up the juice in the can after you've used the lychees

Best Vegetarian Chili from Serious Eats: a huge hit with my guests but it's probably a good thing I only used half the chilies

Smokey Eggplant Dip from Smitten Kitchen: a little less intense than true baba ghanoush, and amazingly delicious

Almond Jello from Chew Out Loud: I've made it so often that I've now started to modify the recipe, including more milk. It's a childhood favorite that still delights.

Cheese Blintzes with Roasted Strawberries from King Arthur Flour: Time consuming but so good... so good...

Oatmeal with an Egg from the Lean Green Bean: a nice way to add protein to your breakfast

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Two visits to Vito's

Vito's has two branches in my part of CT: Vito's by the Park, in Hartford, and Vito's by the Water, in Windsor. I recently had the opportunity to eat at both places and I liked them enough to sit down and write a review.

Vito's by the Park is on a major street in Hartford, just a few blocks from The Bushnell. There's construction going on at a neighboring intersection, which makes parking a bit tricky. Fortunately my friend had been there before and guided us to convenient on-street parking at Pearl Street. Five of us went to dinner on a Tuesday night, before catching "Matilda" at the Bushnell. Nobody had an appetizer. The bread basket was really good: it had focaccia and plain rolls served with a sundried tomato spread.

I ordered the house special, which is a Chocolate Truffle Pappardelle Bolognese made with chocolate truffle pasta. The pasta was a dark brown and paired perfectly with a meaty red sauce. On top was a generous scoop of ricotta and a small heap of gremolata. I adored it and everyone else who tried it also though it was impressive.

My friends ordered the lobster ravioli (very good), the osso bucco (out of this world), the spaghetti carbonara (also very good), and a gluten-free pizza with shrimp and bacon (she said it was fabulous). We then had too much time before the show started, so we split a chocolate lava cake, a tiramisu, and a gluten-free chocolate cake, all of which were excellent.

Yesterday we took our family to Vito's by the Water. Recommendations are absolutely required for the weekend: the bar was heaving at 5pm and half the tables were already filled. By the time we left at 6:20, the place was nearly full. If you call early enough you can request a table with a view. We didn't get a table right by the window, but were still able to appreciate the water, the sunlight, and the pair of geese swimming past us.

They served the same bread basket with a similar but not quite identical spread: the waitress said that this one had anchovies, feta, and tomato paste. We got the Flatbread of the Day, which was described as "Caprese style" - in our opinion it had far too many onions and not enough mozzerella, but the frisee on the side was a big hit.

I had the same dish as last time. I thought the execution was slightly better the second time: the pasta was truly al dente and the ricotta scoop was more generous. The rest of the party had the hangar steak (very good), the haddock special over corn and sweet pea risotto (well executed but slightly too salty), the classic carbonara (a huge hit), and the porchetta (another huge hit). Service was a little slow but our waitress was a gem and offered a second bread basket to keep us going. We had to leave early - I had work - so we didn't linger for dessert.

Would we go back? Absolutely! I was impressed by how well the staff handled our party and another party that had very small children. The food was done well and reasonably priced. (Most entrees $18-28, specials slightly more.)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Millwrights: a review in 2 parts

Millwrights is rated "the best restaurant in CT" and is within an hour's drive of us. We first went there in early September, and again last week.

The September visit was on a Friday night and the place was packed. Reservations definitely required! We went for the tasting menu + wine pairing (about $75 per person for the food and $45 per person for the wine; we split a single serving of wine.) The whole experience was almost 3 hours long, but so beautifully coordinated that it didn't feel like a drag. The food ranged from really good to amazing, and of course I took discreet notes...

1) Oyster on the half-shell, with some kind of flavored vinegar, and gougeres (little puffed buns) on the side

2) Crostini with marinated heirloom tomatoes over house-made ricotta

3) Fluke ceviche

4a) Cornbread with herb butter

4b) Tapioca pudding with the flavors of clam chowder

5) Seared scallops

6) Seared foie gras over toasted brown bread with plum sauce

7) Stuffed quail with thyme cream sauce and roast carrots

8) A pair of desserts that I neglected to write down, although I believe one was akin to a brownie and the other was some sort of pastry with fruit.

The March visit was mid-week. We had a reservation, but at 6pm only one other table was filled. By 8pm, when we left, it was well on the way to being full, but still wasn't packed. We also noticed that many of the other tables were having the tasting menu, just like us! We didn't do the wine pairing on this visit but did share a really good mixed drink (the Fig Ole Biddies) and then had cappuccino with dessert. The whole experience was a bit under 2 hours, probably because the place wasn't as crowded.

1) Oyster with ginger and pink peppercorn mignonette: I love raw oysters but this combo wasn't quite doing it for me. Probably my least favorite course of the evening. The gougeres that accompanied them were great!

2) Roasted heirloom carrot with farro, "farro milk", and mint yogurt sauce: this dish was a revelation. We nearly licked our plates in our efforts to get every last bit of flavor. Definitely one of my favorite courses. It's on the regular menu and I would certainly order this if I wasn't doing the tasting menu.

3) Scallop crudo with lemon oil and watercress: another revelation. DH doesn't even like seafood and he enjoyed this one. I adored it. Another favorite. It's not on their regular menu at the moment and I really hope it makes an appearance there; I would order this again.

4a) Cornbread (or sourdough bread, for me) with black sesame butter: fantastic! The butter had black sesame seeds, honey, and sea salt all worked into it.

4b) Tapioca pudding with all the flavors of clam chowder: we'd had this last time and thus knew what to expect. I thought it was delicious but lacked the charm of novelty this time.

5) Grilled foie gras over toasted brown bread with lightly pickled vegetables: I'm not a huge fan of foie gras but this was perfectly cooked. The vegetables were a nice contrast to the richness of the meat.

6) Duck breast with sunchokes, celery, peanuts, and a rice dumpling: I don't know how they got the duck that perfectly moist and tender, but it was amazing. The accompaniments sound odd, but they actually worked really well with the duck.

7) Grilled fish (I think it was swordfish, but I'm no longer certain... a thin filet with the skin on) with grilled fennel and parsnip puree. This was my second-least-favorite dish, because the fish seemed overcooked. The vegetables were great, as always.

8a) Blood orange sorbet: a lovely palette cleanser while they made our coffee.

8b) Hazelnut Bombe: a chocolate shell resting on a flourless chocolate cake, filled with hazelnut mousse. Absolutely amazing and another one of my favorites.

(I hated the cappuccino. The less said, the better.)

So would we go back? Absolutely! The food and the service were both top-notch. Reservations recommended at any time, and required for weekends.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Recipe Round Up

I'm only going to list the good ones here... no sense wasting space on some mediocre recipes and poorly executed baked goods.

Vegan Black Bean Soup from Smitten Kitchen: cheap, easy, delicious, and healthy. Will definitely make again.

Dry Fried String Beans No Wok from Serious Eats: easy and delicious (even though I couldn't find the Sichuan peppercorns). Will definitely make again.

Spiced Oat and Pear Blondies from Bon Appetit: a little crumbly, but easy and delicious. A remarkable number of my students wanted the recipe.

Szechuan Eggplant Stirfry from Food Network: first time I made it just as described and it was lovely. Second time I omitted the cornstarch and added some mushrooms and peppers - even better! Leftovers are also great cold or hot.

Wartime Sourdough Chocolate Cake from King Arthur Flour: very easy, yummy, and a great way to use up spare sourdough starter (you weigh the starter, then subtract half of that from the flour and half of that from the water in the recipe.) The cream-and-chocolate icing was rather gloppy and never fully solidified, but my kids viewed that as a feature rather than a bug.

So out of the twelve new recipes I've tried this year, these are the five I'll definitely be making again.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Movies I loved in 2015

So I meant to do this post right after the New Year began, but life intruded (oh, life!) and then I got sick, and this post is always a flaming ratfart anyway because my opinions change almost daily.

I watched 33 movies (and Max Max: Fury Road twice) in 2016, which is slightly better than the "two per month" for which I aim. Favorites, in no particular order except possibly chronological by viewing because that's the way my notes are organized:

The Wind Rises
The Woman in Gold
Mad Max: Fury Road
Inside Out
Mr. Holmes
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

(This worked out to ten movies with only minimal editing on my part. I had a quick debate about whether Big Hero 6 made the cut, and decided that it didn't.)

I was making a conscious effort to watch "good" movies this year, instead of just my usual entertaining escapism. This means that I'm going to be slightly more in touch when the Oscars are awarded, and also that I'm starting to lose my taste for truly inane action films. Furious 7, to name one, seemed to have more obvious plot holes than usual. Avengers: Age of Ultron, to name another.

So overall, it was a good year for movie viewing. I'd hoped to see Carol and Trumbo while they were still in theaters, but didn't find them near me.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Sick x2

Eleven days ago, I had a tickle in my throat. Ten days ago, it was a full-blown sneeze, cough, wheeze, ache, and a low fever. I never did figure out if it was a particularly horrible cold or a weak version of the 'flu. I did get my shots back in the fall, so a cold seems more likely...

Two days ago, I was still coughing but mostly getting better. Except that I was exhausted. And my stomach felt iffy. Sure enough, Monday night I started throwing up. And kept throwing up for the rest of the night. Then I had 18 hours of crapping liquids. Then my entire body ached (apparently I pulled some muscles while vomiting) and made it tough to sleep.

The upshot? I've missed four days of work in the past two weeks.

I can't even bear to think about how much work is waiting for me when I get back tomorrow...

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Great books I read in 2015

Please note: the order is thematic rather than ranked. Several of these are rereads, and many of them were published prior to 2015.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
Feed by Mira Grant
The Technician by Neal Asher

F/SF (note that all of the above could also plausibly go into this category)
Armada by Ernest Cline
The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett
The Bees by Laline Paull
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
Uprooted by Naomi Novik

The Year We Fell Down by Sarina Bowen
The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand
Two of a Kind by Susan Mallery

The Clock Strikes Twelve by Patricia Wentworth
Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville

My summary statistics for the year: 147 books read: 116 new and 31 rereads. 41 new authors tried: from above, that includes Neville, Mallery, Florand, Bowen, Cline, Hawkins, Paull, Addison, and Lockhart.

I'm putting together on a separate post on how my Hugo-nomination list is shaping up.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Two great poems

Sadly, I have read very little poetry in the years since I left college.

However, I recently read a wonderful poem, which references another wonderful poem... so I'm saving them here for later.

First poem: Sirens by Sarah Howe (link fixed now)
References another poem: Elegy for Jane by Theodore Roethke

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Favorite movies of 2015

I watched 35 movies in 2015. Not all of them came out during 2015, of course (Cinderella, Expendables, Big Hero 6, etc.) and I also watched Mad Max: Fury Road twice. Here are my favorite movies from the past year:

1) Mad Max: Fury Road
2) Inside Out
3) Star Wars: The Force Awakens
4) Spotlight
5) The Martian
6) Crimson Peak
7) Mr. Holmes
8) The Woman in Gold
9) The Wind Rises
10) Big Hero 6