Six commandments of fish tacos

ADM and I are famous for our fish tacos.  Well, maybe mostly in our own minds, but they are damn good nonetheless.  In light of the beautiful weather this past weekend, we decided to fire up the grill and inagurate fish taco and beer drinking/stoop sitting season.

There are 6 key components to a fish taco party:
1. Fish

(Duh).  We use tilapia, or sometimes cod or mahi-mahi.  NO SALMON.  I despise salmon.

2. Slaw

The first time we did this last summer, I invented a lovely crunchy cabbage slaw.  It’s been a key accompaniment ever since.  Take about a cup of white wine/rice wine/champagne/white balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper and warm in a saucepan.  Add sugar to taste- just enough to take the edge off the vinegar.  Toss over half a head of shredded cabbage and let sit.  That’s it.  Make sure the vinegar is piping hot though, just short of boiling.  You want it to cook the cabbage ever so slightly.  Feel free to add peppers or carrots as well.

3. Beer

Lots.  Fish tacos are best eaten outside, but can be consumed inside, provided that upon consumption, one moves outside to sit on the stoop, drink beer, and watch the cops drive up and down the street.  I believe we had a mix of Land Shark, Magic Hat, Yuengling, and ADM’s super secret late night beer, which I will not reveal.  This is as important as the fish, if not more so.

4. Condiments

Cheese (I know, it’s supposedly sacrilege.  Whatever).  Guac (homemade please). Chips and salsa.  Sour cream.  Tomatoes, but only if they’re in season.  Rice.  Cilantro.  And yes, champagne can count as a condiment.  It goes with everything.

5. People

Fish tacos for 2 are great.  Fish tacos for 8 are even better.  Plus, that’s 6 more people to bring beer (see #3)

6. Milk Frother

After you have consumed tacos and beer for several hours, you might find yourself in need for a little pick-me-up, so as to best continue to consume beer and stoop sit.  This is where the milk frother is vital.  I am very anti one use kitchen appliances, so I have been making fun of ADM for owning a milk frother, which is right up there with a rice cooker in terms of uselessness to me.  (I have a rice cooker. I call it a “pot”)

Then she made cappucinos.  Sold!

And there you have it folks.  Welcome to spring!

poop soup and pretzels

I have a problem.

Well, I have a lot, but I’m referring to one specifically here

I’m becoming the homemade Nazi.  As in, it is beginning to pain me to buy things I could make myself.

Like pretzels.

It all started with book club.  Gansie, emmzzee, and the rest of my book club were coming over for dinner a few Mondays ago.  I had been out of town for the past three weekends and my cupboards were BARE, minus a bunch of Harry Potter-themed candy.  So I took my inspiration from AL, who handed me a can of pumpkin and a can of butternut squash soup as I left her house to head to the train station to come back to DC.

We read a book on the Congo, but I cannot even PRETEND to be an expert on any sort of Congolese or even central African cuisine.  Gansie came through with some great recipes though, so between that and the cans of squash, I settled on a menu of squash soup with sunflower seed brittle (at some point in my life I bought an industrial sized container of sunflower seeds from WHole Foods), a spinach and blood orange salad, and pretzels.

Well, that’s not quite how it turned out.  I made the soup, but it looked, well…gansie said it looked like puke, but pronounced it delicious.  I’m not sure I agreed, but whatever.  The sunflower seed brittle turned into toasted sunflower seeds with ancho chile powder.  The recipe, as best I can remember is (sorry, I pulled it from an e-mail to one of the book club members and am too lazy to write it out):

Coat a skillet (preferably cast iron) in olive oil and turn heat on high.  Sprinkle about a tablespoon of curry powder, a teaspoon and a half of garam masala, a half of teaspoon of coriander, half a teaspoon of chili powder plus red pepper flakes. Toast the spices in oil for a minute or two and add one medium chopped onion.  Sautee for a few minutes and add the white part of a chopped leek and some salt.  Sautee a few more minutes, until everything is soft and add a can of chickpeas, drained (reserve the liquid).  Cook about five minutes more, and dump in a large saucepan with a can of butternut squash and a can of pumpkin.  Add the chickpea water, about 2 glasses of wine (I used red, but white might keep it from being that weird color) and 2-3 shots of whiskey and 1-2 tablespoons of molasses. At this point, add in water or vegetable stock (maybe 2 cups).  Boil the soup until reduced, add hot sauce to taste, and run through a blender until creamy.  Finish with a little heavy cream and maybe more stock or wine to thin the soup out if desired.

I made gansie vanilla pudding as dessert and set everyone on their merry way.

And the next day, I made pretzels

After seeing the recipe in smitten kitchen, I couldn’t help but try it.  I did make one small alteration- I only used half the dough, and wrapped the other half in plastic and stuck it in the fridge for a day or so.My favorite part was poaching.  The baking soda and sugar fizz up in the water sort of like one of those science fair volcanoes.

As for the leftover dough, I let it come to room temperature before working with it, and the part two pretzels turned out beautifully.  I would have an after shot, but ADM and SJ were over and may or may not have devoured them.  Come to think of it, I made lentils and Kerala Parotha that night as well, but that’s for another post

hey, maybe i’m getting the hang of this baking thing!

Super Bowl

I know, I know, I’m about 2 weeks late.  Whatever.

VT had his second annual superbowl party, and requested the same thing I made last year: macaroni and cheese.


I am sick of mac and cheese.  I made it, but I also made something else, because I was bored as hell and had to have something to eat.   More on that after the jump

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everybody’s waiting for the man with the bag…of booze

I never understood the phrase “drown your sorrows.” It sounds like something a sad, morose person does by themselves at a seedy bar in low light.

I am a social drinker. Don’t get me wrong, I will come home a drink a bottle of wine with dinner. But that same bottle just tastes better with company. Drinking is a lot like smoking, I think- there are a few dedicated souls who will do it no matter what, but for many, it’s about camaraderie. So I don’t drown my sorrows. I prefer to be a darkly humorous cynic of a drunk in bad times, and a happy and gregarious one in better times. I am also a social drinker because around Christmas, the general public (and occasionally my family) force me to seek refuge in cocktails to make it through.

Moving on to the point of this post- holiday booze recommendations. I like cheap plonk. There, I said it. Franzia, Boone’s farm, Andre, bathtub Tenley vodka- I’ve had it all. That being said, if ever there were a time of year to go all out, this is it. Festivus, Christmas, Hanukah, whatever- the last half of December is made for champagne and gold stilettos, fitted silk dresses and dangly earrings, elbow length gloves and purple belted coats.

Or, maybe that’s just me.

Here’s what I find myself drinking this time of year:

Paringa Sparkling Shiraz: little on the sweet side, but I love it anyway. Available at the Whole Foods on 14th and P.

Moet White Star or Taittinger Brut: Classic. Taittinger makes me feel like I’m in one of their old posters. As for the White Star, I drank it on my birthday, I will drink it at my nonexistent wedding, and I will request that people drink it at my funeral.

1+1=3 Cava: Cheap, bubbly, dry and delicious.

Zardetto Prosecco: Even cheaper, available EVERYWHERE, and delicious in morning cocktails. Speaking of which…

Pointsetta: I hate mimosas, because I don’t like fresh orange juice. So I have them with cranberry instead. I also skip on the GM, because I developed an aversion to it working in a restaurant.

Yellowtail Shiraz: in this recipe for cranberry mulled wine. Chuck everything in a CrockPot and let it simmer. Trust me, buy the 1.5 L magnum and make a double batch.

Sam Adams Winter Lager: readily available almost everywhere. I hate the Boston Lager, but I love the Sam Seasonals.

Maudite and La Chouffe: not exactly seasonal, but I find myself drinking them more than normal

Lindemans Lambic Framboise: Because every year, my little sister insists on drinking far too much, with disastrous hilarious results.

Hangar One Kaffir Lime vodka: because gimlets are appropriate year round.

Anything from the Gibson: if you haven’t been, go. Now. (Just make sure you’re not there when I want to go, so I can have a table.)

Christmas Goose!

Ha, I wish.  I’m on the phone with my mother now, and we’ve planned Christmas dinner:

Green Beans and feta

Cider braised Collards

Mustard and sugar glazed ham

This recipe, but with lamb, and altered somewhat

Macaroni and Cheese

Creamed Potatoes

Bo-ring.  I would also like to point out that I asked for pomegranate and lamb, and my mtoher told me no one (ie my grandparents) would eat it.  Then my sister found the recipe above, which bears a striking resemblance to the one I originally had in mind.  And suddenly, we’re having lamb!


Thankfully, I’ve started planning my new year’s/football watching menu- i will be holed up in Baltimore with Lou, drinking and watching football.  I think New Year’s Day will be this.

lunch chronicoles: holiday lunch

The company that manages the building where I work is decent.  They put up with the occasional protesters outside the building, and employ Lorraine (the surly woman at the front desk who takes NO shit), Frank (the maintenance guy who reminds me of my grandfather and is awesome), and Ariel (the building engineer/my secret work crush).

img00114Today, they had food in the lobby for the holidays, along with a little band.  Because I love free things, I went down for lunch with relatively low expectations.

Wasn’t so bad!  Sort of like mid-range wedding food.  The festive “punch” (not pictured) was a weird shade of lint-y purple, and could have used some vodka.  But so can most beverages.  The offerings were solid- rolls and butter, a mesclun salad with pears, walnuts and gorgonzola, buttered haricot vert with leeks, oven roasted potatoes, chicken marsala, cheese tortellini with roasted vegetables (overcooked, but still edible- you can see I had already eaten them by the time I remembered to take a picture) and stale cookies that looked like the gingerbread man from Shrek.

It definitely beat leftover mac and cheese and Coke….well, the punch didn’t but close enough.

We now return to your regularly scheduled snark

Good thing I took that little mini-break to Baltimore. Because my life turned absolutely nutty afterwards. Family stuff, work stuff, roommate stuff…I think it’s sorted itself out for the most part.

Unfortunately it has left me with several half-formed blog entries and no more space on the memory card in my camera. And a (possibly) fractured foot (again)- but that’s a story for later.

Let’s start with the pirates, shall we?
Ah, there we go.

The pirate/pyrate/privateer/whatever invasion of Fell’s Point was kind of a wash. Low on the actual pirate fighting, high on vast expanses of untoned white flesh in pseudo-bondage Dungeons and Dragons gear. Ick.
Lou and I managed to have a fun time though, because we will get down anytime, anywhere. Friday night kicked off with a reunion at the train station, followed by much debate over proper attire, and culminated with a pirate-themed beer tasting with the Charm City Muggers. Btw, stay away from the Piraat Ale. It’s delightfully tasty and packs quite the wallop, clocking in at something like 10.5% ABV. After much merry-making, crab dip eating, and placing of stuffed animals upon heads for funny pictures, we decamped to Bartenders for delicious pizza and Miller Lite. Perfect.

As a result of the previous nights activities, it took us a while to get moving. So, at about 2:00, Lou and I found ourselves (seriously, I’m not sure how we pulled together to get there, we just did) at the Blue Moon Cafe (soon to be featured on an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives).

Sitting not far from the water on Aliceanna Street, Blue Moon Cafe sort of reminds me of Practical Magic, with a little bit of that movie with Bette Midler and SJP as witches thrown in.

The table was also decorated with the two things I always want to see on my brunch table (aside from coffee and/or a mimosa):

This is a “bitch biscuit.” When you are bitchy-hungry and in dire need of something before your food is ready, you can be the proud recipient of a “bitch biscuit.” How can you not love this place?

I opted for pancakes and bacon with a massive hashbrown,

while Lou went with an omelette and fruit, thus making her brunch “healthy.”

We really wanted a cinnamon roll, but it didn’t pan out, pardon the pun.

After brunch, we went down to the water for the “invasion,” where we overheard the following:

Girl talking to friend: “Remember all those weird people I told you about that like to dress up like pirates? THEY’RE HERE!”


Our afternoon (read: drinking) continued on, leading to this:

Along with us playing on this:

And ending up (after $1.25 PBR drafts) here, where we sat in the booth where part of Syriana was filmed:

I would like to say we were equally interesting on Sunday, but we spend the day in pajamas on the couch, watching Top Chef.

Oh wait, we did get up to make a run to Rita’s.

family duties

So this Saturday was my cousin’s third birthday party. And her parents, in their infinite wisdom, decided to have it at Chuck E. Cheese.

I hate children. I hate large, blinking anamatronic rodents. I hate shitty pizza. And most of all, I hate being sequestered in confined quarters with hordes of poorly behaved children with NO ALCOHOL IN SIGHT.

Alas, being the dutiful cousin that I am, I hauled myself out of bed at 8:30 this morning and headed out to my grandparents in the wild of suburbia. I’m not feeling so well (more on that later) but I did it anyway. I arrived at my grandparents in enough time for my grandmother to delegate the task of fixing my grandfather’s breakfast (fried egg, grits, and ham) to me, while she fussed at me to eat. Then, I took her underwear shopping (Have you ever tried to explain to your grandmother that 1) nope, she can’t wear the same size underwear as you, she needs a slightly larger size and 2) Victoria’s Secret PINK line was not exactly, uh, made with her in mind. Good times.)

We returned back to the house, my grandparents changed clothes (I’ll be damned if I put on any more than a t-shirt and jeans for Chuck E. Cheese. I doubt my cousin will remember what I was wearing anyways.) and we headed out. After getting some mis-directions from my blackberry, we managed to make it there.

This is where the fun begins. My grandmother is handicapped, and as such walks a little slower than usual. Not that we were in a hurry to get in, but… Anyway, she had a bit of trouble stepping over the curb. My grandfather admonished her to take her time, leading to the following exchange:

Grandfather: “Don’t get so excited! Slow down!”
Grandmother: “I’m not! My foot got caught.”
Grandfather: “What are you, excited to see white people?”
Grandmother: “Oh, you go to shit.”

We walked in, and my grandmother turned to me and goes (in her genteel Southern accent) “oh…my.” There were, as I’m sure you can imagine, kids EVERYWHERE. Poorly behaved, hopped up on high fructose corn syrup, screaming and rocketing around like deranged pinballs with sticky fingers. We made it to the table without me stealing my grandmother’s cane to smack anyone. My uncle walked up and greeted us:

Me: “So this is what hell looks like, huh?”
Uncle: “Yes.”
Grandfather: (surveying the mayhem) “Bring on the drinks.”

My cousin, who had been feeling feverish the night before, was still not doing so well, and as such, had a meltdown. Not that I blame her. I’ve got a solid 2 decades on her, and if I arrived to be surrounded by 7-8 kids much older than me, 20 adults, and a freaky rat in a baseball cap, I believe I’d be in tears too. We did the pizza and cake thing, with the adults clustered at one end of the table, looking like Bosnian refugees (only black.) I’d like to take this chance to comment on the TERRIBLE table manners these children had. It was a DISGRACE. I was lucky enough to have AM kindergarten and a grandmother who made sure that I could set the table for a seven course dinner by the time i was 6 years old, along with a healthy dose of cotillion classes. I know not every child is that lucky. But for the love of god, is it really so hard to impress upon your six year old that I should not have to see the full contents of her mouth every time she chews? Or that your (fat) eight year old should probably try and get more cake in him than around his mouth? Or that unless you are turning three or auditioning for a reality TV show, trying to shove an entire piece of cake in your mouth so you can run back for more is just a tad bit rude? Ugh. THIS is why I hate children.

After about two hours of this nonsense, my grandfather decides it’s time to go.

Grandfather: “Well, it’s four now. By the time we get back, the game will be on.”
Me: “And there will be beer.”
Grandfather: “And a straight shot of Jack Daniel’s for me.”

We gathered our things, said our goodbyes, and while I walked my grandmother to the door, my grandfather went outside to warm the car. As we got outside, he waved, rolled down the window, and said “I was just about to leave.”

Me: “I know you’re family and all, but I don’t think I could forgive you for leaving me at Chuck E. Cheese.
Grandmother: “Oooh, look! Those [insert unintelligible name of plant here] have berries! Mine don’t have berries.”
Grandfather: “Yes they do”
Grandmother: “No they don’t.”
Me: “Can we look at them as we drive away?”

Half an hour later, I was safely ensconced on the couch, watching Green Bay beat the shit out of the Seahawks and listening over my grandparents argue over who was nicer to the dog.

holiday parties

While I am all for elaborate dishes every now and again (I almost gave myself a seizure making German Chocolate cupcakes for Sadie’s birthday,) there is something to be said for simplicity, especially when it’s a party. My goal in life is to one day be the perfectly dressed hostess who greets the first guest at the door with a glass of wine, ushers them into the room, and watches as they gasp in awe and the beautiful and delicious spread laid out in front of them.

As it stands, I’m far more likely to be frantically running about the kitchen, waiting for the first guest to arrive, who will then be put in charge of greeting everyone else while I hustle upstairs to shower.

Perhaps I should opt for some of Mark Bittman’s easy appetizers next time. You can never go wrong with endive and goat cheese.