Goodwill score

•March 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I scored these sweet little birds at the Goodwill on Dearborn yesterday.  A whopping $2.99!  My 2nd art acquisition from that location (last year I found a line drawing of a kitchen…which I hung in my kitchen).

embroidered birds

detail

Why I Love My Local Vietnamese Market

•December 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Simply put:

2 lbs ground pork

1 head red-leaf lettuce

1 cucumber

12 bundles of glass noodles

1 Fuji apple

2 sweet onions

1 bunch scallions

1 bunch cilantro

Grand total:  $11.40

Dueling iPods/Music Hour/Angela Falls in Love

•September 1, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Here’s a fun activity.  And a story that ends with extreme irony.  

Find someone with similar taste in music.  Sit around, drink some beer, take turns playing songs of bands they’ve not heard but that you think they’ll like.  Odds are you end up with some new music to research.

Kristopher and I did this on Saturday night.  I really enjoyed most of the bands that he played, but one in particular utterly enthralled me from the first chord struck on the guitar.  Bon Iver (Iver pronounced like the French “hiver”) aka Justin Vernon.

I bought the album the next morning on iTunes.  Since then, I’m on my…uhh…20th+ listen.  Ridiculous.  Simple, stark, beautiful acoustic bliss.  Haunting, melancholy, the sound of heartbreak.  Absolute.  Perfection.

Here’s the irony:  finding their MySpace so I could put a hyperlink in this entry.  And discovering that the night I was falling in love with the band, they played a show here in Seattle.  Argh.

Botany geek!

•August 30, 2008 • 2 Comments

On a recent trip to S.W. Oregon my friend Maggie took me to see MAN EATING PLANTS!!!  Okay, not really.  But they are carnivorous.  

Behold, the Darlingtonia californica.  

Also known as a cobra lily, these rare plants occur in an extremely limited area in Northern California and Southern Oregon.  

Some interesting factoids:  it is the only member of its genus, Darlingtonia.  

It can only grow in acidic bogs and drainages.  Bogs soils are low in nitrogen, which the cobra lily compensates for by, well, eating bugs.

Actually, Mr. Darlingtonia doesn’t eat the bugs.  Unlike a lot of its carnivorous cousins, this particular plant does not generate digestive enzymes within its pitcher.  Instead, it relies on the liquifying powers of symbiotic bacteria and commensals like fly midge larvae and slime mites.

Here’s how our little friend catches dinner:  the “cobra fangs” or “mustache” has little nectar glands.  Insects are attracted to the sweet odor and the offer of easy energy.  Lured inside by the possibility of more nectar, they find that they are being guided deeper into the pitcher by thousands of short, stiff, downward-angled hairs.  They exhaust themselves trying to fly out of the “windows” in the top of the pitcher and are eventually consumed by the critters living at the bottom of the well, as it were.  

Darlingtonia do produce flowers.  This one is all bloomed out, but you can see that they’re produced on very long stems.  Interestingly, nobody has definitively established what pollinates these flowers.  Hmm, I smell a possible master’s thesis….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a total aside, this cracked me up:

  Note the type of produce being sold here.  OMG SWEET CRON!!  I just can’t get me enough cron, it’s the best.

The Corson Building*

•August 26, 2008 • Leave a Comment

*disclaimer:  written under the influence of red wine and absinthe

Gustatory heaven.

I called a week in advance, fingers crossed, hoping that there would somehow be an opening for two.  No.  They were completely booked but would contact me if there was a cancellation or a failure to reconfirm.  Happily (ecstatically?  deliriously?  Maggie can attest to me jumping around and squealing like hemorrhoidal pig when I got the call) there was a last-minute cancellation – we were in!  I was given the run-down: arrive before 7, dinner was communal and served family style, plan on being there for at least 3 hours, probably 4.  It ended up being 4.5.  Four and a half hours of absolute bliss.

Being the anal-retentive girl that I am, we got there 40 minutes early.  Nobody was around, so Maggie and I strolled around the corner to the Georgetown Liquor Company for a pre-dinner drink.  At 6:45 we wandered back and investigated the grounds.  Three doves in a dove cote, a chicken coop replete with clucking hens, tons of fresh herbs growing in tidy beds. A mermaid fountain, outdoor grills and smokers.

People started filtering in a few minutes later and at 7 trays of sparkling rose were brought around by two astonishingly gorgeous servers (I hate to use this word, as one of them later functioned as a highly knowledgeable sommelier).  When everyone had a glass in their hands appetizers were brought out.  Air-dried salted albacore tuna on slices of yellow watermelon.

Angela: I am not a fan of “fishy” fish, so although I could recognize the balance of flavors, I wasn’t a huge fan and ended up giving the majority of my 2nd piece to Maggie.

Maggie: The pairing of the Rose with the fish & Watermelon was perfect, they complemented each other perfectly.  I did not find the fish “fishy” but more of an intensified tuna flavor.

A: Fishy.  Bleh.  *wrinkles nose*  The rose was magnificent, though.  I’m glad they gave me two glasses.

I got the sense that the servers were scoping out the diners as they mingled in the courtyard, determining the seating arrangement.  I could be wrong, but…Maggie and I were definitely seated next to the best possible matches for us – a yoga instructor and an artist/carpenter and their friends.

The first course was a salmon tartare with pickled currants (still on the stem) and thinly sliced fresh cucumber, served with a reisling from the Loire valley.

Note:  unless otherwise noted, assume that whatever is being described is utterly orgasmically good.

Second Course:  sliced fresh heirloom tomatoes topped with foraged marinated chanterelle mushrooms and buffalo mozarella, drizzled with a balsamic reduction.

M: the Chanterelles were a) unexpected, being so early &  b) delicious

Third Course:  green and yellow beans, grilled shrimp and herbed tomato jam with radicchio.  Served with a chilled chenin blanc.

Fourth Course:  roasted okra and beets.  This sounds plain, but it was friggin’ incredible.

Fifth Course:  this was the only plated course (everything preceding this was dished onto the same plate, which other reviewers have found problematic.  Neither Maggie nor I thought it was an issue).  Pan-roasted halibut cheeks with garbanzo beans, drizzled with a tomato sauce (maybe.  The folks at The Corson Building are very generous with the wine pours.  Holy bejebus.  So things started to get a bit hazy for me at this point). This course was served with a lovely shiraz.

M: the halibut cheeks were awesome! the texture was meaty and the taste buttery and rich.

Sixth Course:  whole roasted chicken with roasted peaches.  Simple, elegant flavors.  Soul-satisfying.  Somewhere between the 6th and 7th courses a plate of lavash topped with roasted whole black cumin seeds made its way around the table.

Seventh Course:  roasted lamb, wrapped in fresh horseradish  leaves and served with a yoghurt/tahini sauce and a bowl of fresh minced mint and italian parsley leaves.  Perfectly cooked, with a delicate pink center.

M: this was my favorite course, the lamb was perfect! I hesitated to add condiments, but trusted in the food gods & the chef and went for it. Results were amazing! dancing tastebuds. My co-diners offered me seconds and I took them up on it!

Dessert:  Arak liqueur served with hot green tea and chipped ice.  Rice pudding with fresh peaches and blackberries.

A: I made a spectacle of myself grimacing over the vileness of the arak.  I am NOT a fan of anise flavored things.  The rice pudding mellowed the licorice flavor, but still…I couldn’t drink mine.  Maggie was forced to consume it (well, most of it) as I found it to be spine-shiveringly gross.  No fault of Chef Dillon, just my own personal dislike.

M: All the courses were wonderful, to say that each course was better than the last would be untrue. It was more like the last course perfectly set you up for the next and made it even better.

A:  I agree.  Each course was a preamble, a preface to a slow-building climax.  Truly a transcendental dining experience, carefully thought out in terms of matching flavors, textures and richness.  Utterly brilliant.  I am definitely looking forward to eating here again.

How-To: My Enameling Process

•August 14, 2008 • 40 Comments

This is a tutorial on how to enamel – at least, for the type of enameling that I do.

  First off, safety gear.  Enamel is finely powdered glass, people.  It is most unfriendly to lungs.  I wear a 3M S7501 respirator with P100 filters.  Lightweight and comfortable, it’s the best respirator (of 3) that I’ve tried.

 

  Next up:  You’ll need a kiln.  This is a small pottery kiln I had made at Seattle Pottery Supply.  I run it at 1500 degrees Fahrenheit.  That’s hot!  There’s a little peephole in the door that allows you to see what stage your enamel is in.  DO NOT LOOK INTO PEEPHOLE RIGHT AFTER CLOSING DOOR!  I did.  Once.  I was lucky to only singe off my eyelashes instead of dry-roasting my cornea.  

  I use powdered enamels.  There are also liquid varieties, but I find that powders work best for what I do.  I store them in the little plastic containers that you can buy in any arts-and-crafts supply.  Whenever I get a new color, I make a tiny color swatch and label the back with the name.  The enamels I use (Thompson Enamels) do not always fire the color that you might expect.  

  Regardless of the type of metal you’re enameling, it needs to be free of dirt or oil.  I use a fine metal-grade scotch-brite pad cut into small squares to scrub the surface of the metal.  Here’s a cleaned copper swallow, with the used scotch-brite above it.

  I place pieces I’m going to enamel onto a piece of paper.  I like Bon Apetit magazine pages – the paper is slick.  The New Yorker is good, too.  And label the sheets of paper with the color name!  otherwise you’re going to have nasty cross-contamination.  

  After sprinkling on the enamel, simply fold the paper in half and pour the excess back into its little container.  The red thing in the photo is a sifter, very similar to what cake decorators use for powdered sugar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I use Klyr-Fire as my adhesive.  It’s non-toxic.  I dilute it 1:3 with water and store it in an old baby food jar.  Here’s the copper form, painted with a layer of Klyr-Fire.  It dries REALLY fast, so you have to be quick with the next step:  applying the powdered enamel.

 

 

 

   The enamel has been sprinkled on.  This is the front of the piece.  All of my jewelry is enameled on both sides, but you have to do them one at a time – otherwise the enamel (which is still powdery at this stage) will fall off when you flip the piece over.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Into the kiln!  Small pieces like this take less than a minute to fire (i.e. go from powder to smooth, glassy surface).  The copper form is on a sheet of mica, which is relatively non-stick.  The mica is on a square of heavy woven steel wire with the corners bent down.  

 

 

 

 

 

Out of the kiln.  Copper oxidizes like mad, so the back side is all crusty and discolored.  This stuff needs to be scrubbed off – again, with scotch-brite.  When it’s been cleaned up, repeat the above process.

 

 

 

  Because the front has already been enameled, you’ll need to place the piece on a trivet (otherwise the glass will re-melt and glue itself to whatever its sitting on).  I buy the small tripod trivets from Thompson Enamels.  

 

 

 

  Now it’s back into the kiln to have the backside fired. Be sure to use a minimal amount of enamel.  If it’s really thick the front of the piece will melt onto the tripod trivet.  Ugly!  and indicative of poor craftsmanship.

 

  Here is what makes a relatively simple piece of jewelry go from “good” to “great”.  Again, the edges of the copper are oxidized.  It looks good on some pieces.  However, with a bit of wear, the black comes off.  Now it’s going to look blotchy and carelessly crafted.  To avoid this I use a Dremel masonry grinding bit in my Flexshaft to grind the edges clean.  USE WATER.  Dip the piece AND the grinding bit into a small bowl of water often.  This will keep ground up enamel from flying everywhere and making a mess of both your workbench and your respiratory system.

***Note:  this is the only time I’m handling the piece with my hands.  The rest of the steps are done by manipulating the form with surgical tweezers.  Seriously.  It was hard to capture that with my camera, as I’ve only got two hands.  Tweezers help you avoid (a.) getting enamel all over yourself and (b.) smudging the powder and having unevenly enameled pieces.

  Edges are ground nice and clean.  Shiny!  Now it’s time for the OTHER thing that will demonstrate your impressive jewelry-making skills and attention to detail:  SOLDERING THE GODDAM JUMP RING SHUT.  Like this –

  Here’s the deal.  Nobody thinks you can solder enameled pieces.  BULLSHIT.  Being ignorant of this incorrect yet widely believed notion, I soldered everything when I first learned to enamel.  *gasp!*  And it works.  All you have to do is use a very, very, very cool and tiny flame.  And “easy” solder.  And go slowly.  I use a straight acetylene torch (no oxy, thanks!) and a size 00 Smith torch tip.  LOVE IT.  I seriously heart my Smith torch.

  Pet peeve:  unsoldered jump rings.  If you catch your jewelry on something (hair, clothes, excited boyfriend, etc…) the jump ring pulls apart and you lose the jewelry.  Lame.  Hence the soldering.

 

 

    The problem with soldering is this:  the jump ring oxidizes.  And another thing you’re not supposed to be able to do with enamel is pickle it.  Again:  Bullshit.  You CAN pickle enamel, but you CANNOT forget about it.  You have to use cold pickle. And don’t leave the piece in there for more than 5 minutes.  I’ve found that the dark greens, reds, vibrant yellows and oranges all tend to etch faster than other colors.  I pull those out after 3 minutes and if the silver isn’t clean, buff the black off with White Diamond on a soft linen buffing wheel.  Here’s our little birdy friend in the pickle pot.  With a failed piece that I’m slowly etching all of the enamel off of…that’s what those blackish slivers of crap are in the bottom of the pot.

  Last step:  the vibratory tumbler.  20 minutes does it.  I use ceramic media with 920 compound from Rio Grande.  Et voila!!  C’est simple.

Ocho

•August 12, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Food Porn!

Last night Kristopher and I wandered down to Ocho for some snacks and drinks.  I was in desperate need of booze after my afternoon adventure, the highlight of which was pleading with a tow-truck driver not to haul my rental car away (he agreed, for a $30 “tip”…then had the audacity to ask me on a date.  Jackass.).

We sat at the bar, chatted with a couple sitting next to us (they gave us some very good suggestions, yay!), sipped our respective poisons, then proceeded to gorge ourselves.  

Here’s what we had:  

La Carolina – dates filled with blue cheese and wrapped in pancetta.  Luscious, silky, more sweet than salty.  My only complaint would be that the sweetness of the dates overpowered the blue cheese.  

Chorizo con Limon – sliced chorizo with olives and a fried egg in a pool of garlic and lemon.  AMAZING.  The acidity of the lemon juice perfectly balanced the delicious chorizo fat.  

Judias Verdes – green beans with frizzled shallots and portbello duxelles.  Another keeper.  The green beans were immaculately prepared – still emerald green and crisp without a hint of rawness. The shallots added a tinge of bitterness which contrasted brilliantly with the rich, slightly sweet mushrooms. 

Banderilla de Boqueron – white anchovy, roasted pepper, and artichoke heart on a tiny skewer.  Relatively unremarkable.  Not bad, not great.  

Mejillones – steamed mussels with ham and fennel in an ouzo broth.  WOAMG.  Even with the double-whammy of licorice flavored ingredients (sorry, but I think ouzo is vile.  Vile, I say!) there was only a delicate hint of anise.  Plump glistening mussels coated in slivers of ham…salty, buttery, juicy goodness.  I hope they keep this on the specials menu for a while.

Piquillo Relleno de Atun – roasted pepper stuffed with basque tuna and dressed with fried capers, allioli and minced egg.  Not as interesting as it sounds like it should be.  It was somehow lacking depth – perhaps more allioli would imbue it with some pow.  And moisture.  I thought the tuna was a bit dry.

Setas de Jerez – sherried mushrooms and arugula chiffonade on toast.  Another serious keeper.  And spicy!  Totally unexpected level of heat with this dish.  The sherried mushrooms were savory and decadent.  Combined with the peppery arugula and crispy buttered toast, this was a hit on so many levels – flavor-wise as well as visually and texturally.  

Ocho:  highly recommended.  It’s usually packed, I’d suggest going early (i.e. as soon as they open) or relatively late.  Also, props to the staff.  Attentive and helpful – what more can a girl ask for?  All in all, my new Ballard fave.

 
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