train food

photo2

No, you haven’t been redirected to thisiswhyyouarefat.com

Last month, I was on Amtrak a LOT.  And the food on the train is TURRBLE, as Charles Barkley would say.  So I have a little train tradition.  When I’m leaving from DC, and will be on the train for long enough to get hungry, I always stop at the Uno’s in Union Station for their Pizza Skins- deep dish pizza crust stuffed with mashed potatoes, cheese, and bacon, and served with a side of sour cream.  I also stop at the Vaccaro’s in the basement to get the sliced almond cookies to take to whoever is picking me up on the other end.

It’s probably for the best that I am usually only on the train once every 2-3 months.

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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!”

Right.

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.

taco bell, and a small digression into bbq


Taco Bell is one of my dirty little secrets. It’s terrible for you, not very tasty, full of salt, and generally is just awful. But it reminds me of my childhood. Fast food was a rare treat with my mom, so with my grandparents, we did what any normal children would do and gorged ourselves. On the weekends we stayed with them, my grandmother, tired of my and my grandfather’s ham-fisted attempts at cooking (the chicken grease muffins are a story for a later date,) would send him out to get something for dinner. My sister and I, being about 7 and 9 at the time, alternated between Taco Bell and Pizza Hut (with an occasional McDonald’s cinnamon roll thrown in for breakfast on Sunday.)

I explained this to VT and he pointed out that when I get stressed or grumpy, I have a tendency to hit Taco Bell. Point taken. As a result, I limit my Taco Bell intake to once every three months.

I broke that rule last night.

Some time ago, I received an e-mail from VT:
“i trust you will be joining me at this event?”

with the following attached:

My response?
“holy shit! i am SO there. if this is a joke, I’m going to be pissed beyond belief.”

So, yesterday, I met VT outside of Cannon, and we walked with another one of his coworkers into the Rayburn cafeteria for free Taco Bell.

I have never worked on the Hill in the classic sense. I worked for a non-profit that’s located on the Hill, but I have never worked in a Senate, House or Committee office, and I have NO intention of ever doing so. Yesterday, i was dressed for work in a denim jacket, tank top, and bubble skirt. That is basically the highest level of formality my job requires. I was wearing flip flops, but in a concession to the occasion, switched to flats. Things like that don’t work on the Hill.

I do LOVE Hill receptions though, which is why I’m glad VT (for the time being) works there. Free beer. Free taco bell. Did I mention the free beer?


I got into an argument with one of VT’s coworkers, a Grade-A bullshitter who tried to convince me that barbecue had originated in Vermont. “We use artisanal pigs,” he said.

“You can use artisanal pigs for barbecue. It’s made from hogs,” I replied.

This led to a discussion of the major fault lines in barbecue- wet vs. dry, pork vs. beef, and most importantly, ketchup vs. vinegar. I, being from NC, come down on the wet, porky, vinegary side. I also might have referenced this map of SC barbecue.

I later resumed this discussion with a friend from Texas, who clearly came down on the exact oppossite side. Poor saps. They don’t know what they’re missing down there.

birth control

This weekend, I ventured to the glorious Tidewater area of Virginia, for my cousin’s 8th birthday party.

Whoa Nellie.

There were 15 (including my two cousins, M&S, who, because of their initials, I will refer to as Marks and Sparks) SCREAMING little girls running around my aunt and uncle’s house. FIFTEEN.

I am not a fan of children. I make an exception for M&S. But that is the ONLY exception (much to my other uncle’s chagrin.) But, duty calls, and I do adore M&S. Their mom was my “other mommy” for much of my formative years, and I think of them as my little sisters or nieces more so than as cousins.

The party began with decorating goodie bags. Which, with 15 little girls, involves a LOT of glitter glue. Glitter glue does not dry within the 2 hours period of the average birthday party, which led to a lot of Gumby-like moves from me to keep from looking like I fell into a bedazzler.
The girls did a bang-up job decorating though, and moved on to freeze dance, which is exactly what it sounds like- freeze tag, but with dancing in lieu of running. They played bingo, sang karaoke (Sparks blew it UP,) and ran around the house screaming. And screaming. And running. And then screaming some more.

Around 3:30, it was time for the pièce de résistance– birthday cake! My aunt, in her glorious, glorious foresight, had arranged for a cupcake cake, eliminating the need for slicing and plates, along with individual Kool-Aid Koolers (or whatever the hell they’re called), and individual strawberry and vanilla or chocolate and vanilla ice cream cups. All of this made for a much, much easier high fructose corn syrup delivery system for the gremlins lovely little girls.

The cake was in the shape of a giant flower, with Tinkerbell perched in the middle.
I believe the frosting to cupcake ratio was about 1:1, which works perfectly for M&S. Marks eats the cupcake, and Sparks only eats the frosting.

All and all, I’d like to thank my aunt for the second most effective advertisement for birth control I’ve ever seen. The first one involved a visit to her doctor towards the end of her pregnancy with Sparks, and is too traumatic of an experience to explain without the aid of alcohol.

Happy Birthday Marks!

Easter

I love Easter. Where I’m from, we pour it on thick- loads of food, dying and hiding several dozen eggs, and the most important Easter event- an elaborate Easter basket hunt, complete with little girls running around on frilly dresses, fighting over who gets to use the dog to find Easter eggs in the back yard. In fact, my favorite picture of me is from an Easter when I was about five years old. I’m in a blue and white dress, complete with patent leather shoes and white hair bows, sitting primly in a lawn chair in the middle of the yard, legs crossed, drinking a can of Coke- I was such an elfin child, I could barely hold it with both hands.

As I’ve gotten older, and Easter has become a bit more hectic, my mother and I focused more on culinary escapades over the chocolate bunny and Cabury egg variety. We enjoy Easter because my grandparents permit a bit more flexibility with the menu than they usually do (although we do keep the mainstays of macaroni and cheese and some sort of greens- collard, turnip, or mustard,) as opposed to Christmas and Thanksgiving, which have unalterable menus.

Last year, Easter dinner was rather labor intensive- pork loin with onion marmalade, butternut squash ravioli with brown butter and sage, Cornish hens, green bean and feta salad, greens, macaroni and cheese. At one point, my friend Adam (one of the 20+ people we fed that day) arrived for dinner, and my mother immediately dispatched him to the ravioli filling station set up in one corner of the kitchen. That was also the year I decided Tab energy and vodka made for a charming aperitif.

This year, my mom had to get my sister from school on Friday, and my grandparents and I arrived on Saturday, leaving little time for elaborate prep. We rolled in around 4, and my now-21-year-old sister (who henceforth was not allowed to TOUCH my mother’s car) and I immediately began fighting over who got to drive the car to the store to get bread. Weird.

My mom likes to keep the house at the temperature and the humidity of the Amazon. As a result, there is a rainforest in our living room. It’s sad when you can 1) barely get in the room and 2) barely see the television for the flora

Saturday’s dinner was my mom’s famous Mediterranean chicken packets, the ultimate lazy meal. Drop some vegetables (spinach, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, whatever) in some aluminum foil, top with a chicken breast, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta, close up the packet, and whack it in the oven at high heat for 15 minutes. It’s wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am cooking, with consistently delicious results…
I had dinner with my grandparents, and departed to church. Not to actually attend services, mind you, but to put in an appearance at the champagne reception following the Saturday night service. (I didn’t drink though, sadly). From there, Carolina and I trooped out with our Greensboro posse for a night on the town….or the evening spent drinking wine on the couch at my old youth advisor’s house, catching up. Then Carolina, his old college suitemate and I hit downtown, where I am STILL haunted by some of the terrible, terrible fashion crimes walking the streets (white platforms? and jean shorts? really?!) We ended up at Natty Green’s, drinking beer, playing shuffleboard (them) and fending off advances from fat frat-boy wannabes in plaid shorts and Topsiders (me.) I felt like Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama.

The next morning, another fight ensued over a trip out to get a Sunday New York Times (the Greensboro Barnes and Noble no longer sells the Post) and a trip to the store for cheese, sausage, and Cheerwine. Then it was time to get down to the actual business of the day- college basketball.

Oh yeah, we started making Easter dinner too. My mother went low maintenance this year, allowing both of us the chance to sort of hang out and watch basketball. The menu this year featured grilled lamb marinated in yogurt, rosemary (fresh from the GIANT bush in the backyard,) and lemon, a hen roasted in the oven, mac and cheese, cider-chipotle collards, asparagus (ew!), broccoli, and the always classic poundcake and ice cream (my mother makes the poundcake from scratch, and has the recipe memorized.)

(the lamb was a little charred, but trust me, it was DELICIOUS)

Poundcake, and (I think) the wine Adam brought back from Italy for my mom.

In addition to myself, my mom, grandparents and sister, Adam upheld his annual tradition of coming over for dinner/basketball, as well as grandmother’s brother and sister-in-law, AND a whole gaggle of cousins.

(the leaf in the table comes in awfully handy around this time of year)

One of my cousins brought over her puppy, the CUTEST Rottweiler imaginable. She romped around with Audrey (my dog) and escaped some inappropriate advances from Bandit (my grandparent’s dog) before passing out in a tired puppy heap on the dining room floor.
And, just to make you jealous, as someone told me it was sleeting in DC, some gratuitous shots of my wonderfully sunny backyard:

Mum just had the porch redone.

Forsythia and the Red Delicious apple tree

Yellow Delicious apple tree and the Magnolia

Don’t be too thrilled for me. When I got up Monday to walk the dogs, it was snowing. Schizo spring!

dispatches from the field: headed down south to the land of the pine…

It’s noon, we’re searching for a radio station, and we hit my favorite part of the trip- coming around the curve on 95, VCU’s ever expanding campus on one side (screw you, Eric Maynor) and the Richmond train station on the other.

The Wendy’s in South Hill won an award for fastest fast food service. It’s sleeting in DC, and sunny and a little breezy here. We’re far enough South that I can have Cheerwine with my Wendy’s combo.

There’s a pit stop at the ABC store, which combined with a request for a cup of ice from Wendy’s, leads me to believe my grandfather will be snacking on peanuts and drinking something on the rocks while I drive.

Time for the switch at the first rest stop in North Carolina.

I could do this drive in my sleep (but still in my driving shoes.) I can wake up, look out the window, and tell you exactly what highway we’re on (495, 395, 95, 85, 40) and approximately where we are. I’ve been up and down this route more times than I can count- every 2 weeks from the time I was 6 until I was 13, and probably about once a month between then and college.

It’s good to be home.