Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fresh Pasta

A few years ago, I just happened on a food demo by Tony and Cathy Mantuano of Spiaggia in Chicago at the Italian Festival at Belmar. The recipe was ravioletti di crescenza con salsa di Parmigiano-Reggiano e burro al tartufo, better known around our house as cheese ravioli in browned butter and truffle oil. What was most helpful about the demonstration was watching Cathy make the ravioli dough. I had long been intrigued by making fresh pasta but a bit intimidated by the process of making it. Watching it done made all the difference in my confidence level. Tasting it made Robert supportive of buying the necessary ingredients.
Robert and I ventured off to the kitchen store to acquire the pasta machine and our first fresh pasta was a joint effort. I mixed and Robert ran the machinery. Do not go there! I will not tolerate the sexist interpretation of men and machinery! Our first fresh pasta was a rousing success! Recently, I must admit, I've lost the touch and I've been wishing I could watch a good pasta maker again.
One of my guilty pleasures in the blog world is The Amateur Gourmet. Adam Roberts is a cute young man who bumbles and blunders a bit, but he's like my young nephew learning to cook and develop a veneer of culture. He did a vblog on the Food Network website for a while and now has a new web show on Scripp's new Food2. His second episode is on fresh pasta.
It is the same sort of education I had at that Italian Festival at Belmar with the advantage of being able to rewind and play it again.
I have not fully explored this new Food2 site. I see one of the kids from Next Food Network Star has a video on there and there are Ace of Cakes episodes as well. I'll blog more when I have explored the site.

Beer and Cheese Event

Jackie at Fromage to Yours has another cheese pairing event planned for Thursday, May 7th at the Embassy Suites Denver Tech Center. These events are always fun and very educational. Admission is $10 and $5 of that goes to the Food Bank of the Rockies. As an active volunteer at Covenant Cupboard Food Bank, I am keenly aware of how many new clients we see each week and how much we need food. In my book, the donation to FBR is reason enough to attend, never mind the great cheese and beer!
Jackie carries only cheese from American cheesemakers and her events pair cheeses she carries with local beers, wines and liquors. This particular event features Beehive Cheese Company from Utah and Grafton Village Cheese Company of Vermont and beers from Great Divide brewery in Denver. Some of my favorite snacking cheeses come from these two companies!
By the way, she just added a line of local wines and is planning to offer wine and cheese pairings in her store on a regular basis. Check her website for details.
Robert and I have taken to nibbling cheese and crackers before (or sometimes instead of) weekend meals. I drop by Fromage to Yours Thursday or Friday to check out what is new and interesting. Jackie is quite free with offering samples! Lately, Robert has really been enjoying Brick from Rocking W here in Colorado. It is a very mild and buttery cheese. I'm totally taken with Beechers Handmade Cheese Flagship Reserve. It is everything you think of when you think of Cheddar -- a little tang, chewy texture, that unique Cheddar flavor. The Reserve is cloth-wrapped and that means the cheese loses moisture during the aging process. As with a sauce reduction, the loss of moisture intensifies the flavor. I've been using San Joaquin Gold from Fiscalini Cheese Company in California for risottos and other dishes where I would use a fontina or a parmegiana-reggiano. Of course, I make no secret that Mezzo Secco from Vella Cheese in California is the special touch that makes my Mushroom Spinach Lasagna a real winner.
Some might think the economy is reason to avoid speciality shops, but I find the intense and fresh flavors of these cheeses allow me to use less cheese and gain flavor.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When is a Democrat not a Democrat

Okay, moderate Senator Arlen Spector is no longer R-Pennsylvania, but D-Pennsylvania. Again. We've seen the headlines and the news clips, President Obama endorse him and Vice-President Biden court him. What difference does this make? The answer, none. The all important 60 in the Senate refers to 60 votes, not 60 people with a D after their name. While Republicans have historically been a voting block and currently seem be moving in lock-step with "Obama, not just 'no', but 'Hell No," Democrats have always been an independent lot. This is, after all, the bunch Will Rogers was talking about -- "I am not a member of any organized political party, I am a Democrat."
I welcome Senator Spector as a Democrat, but, realistically, he is a political creature who left the Democrats so he could win a primary and now he's come back so he can win a primary. He has no party loyalty, he has a keen sense of personal preservation. He is not a 60th vote to make that fillibuster-proof situation.
Quite honestly, I think that is fine. I like that we are not robots, but free to have our own opinions. I could never fit in with a political party that required my unconditional loyalty. I want to be represented by people who think about what is best for me as a constituent, not what is best for a political party. (I am certainly not represented at the state level and only partially represented at the national level, but I am not looking to participate in a tea party.)
Welcome, Senator Spector, to the party where free thought is encouraged and celebrated, even if it means we lose a few to the robot, er, Republican, party.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Old Friends, New Favorite Restaurant

As soon as we checked into our hotel in Honolulu, I called our old friend and pastor, Jeff Lilley. Jeff is now pastor of Lutheran Church of Honolulu. Jeff gave us a great, if somewhat speedy, tour of Honolulu, including his favorite beaches, their boat, great parks and such. His tips on things to do could have kept us busy for a good month if not longer! Even back in our Kansas days, Jeff was determined they would one day sell everything, buy a boat and spend the rest of their days sailing around the world. This boat is a great first step!
From Lilleys
Jean is the Executive Director of Honolulu Habitat for Humanity, so we picked her up after work and got the whirlwind tour of Lutheran Church of Honolulu.
From Lilleys
They have an incredible music program there and I couldn't resist getting a picture of the music storage area.
Every church musician I know would die for storage like this!
From Lilleys
When they buy music, they buy the whole score, another trait that most church musicians love to be able to do!
From Lilleys

Jeff had obligations at the church, so Jean tokk us to dinner at one of our new favorite restaurants, Sam Choy's. I'm sure Sam Choy's is hohum for most Hawaiians, but we thought it was a major feast! Robert and I split The catch of the day, steamed mahimahi with black Bean Sauce served with green beans and, in typical Hawaiian fashion, mashed potatoes.
From Lilleys
There was a mess up with Jean's crabmeat stuffed Opah with shiitake mushroom sauce, so they brought us the appetizer of the day, crabmeat stuffed shiitake mushrooms.
From Lilleys
Unfortunately, the appetizer picture is a bit fuzzy and we somehow missed a picture of Jean's opah. We found the seasoning to be spot on, the fish flawlessly prepared and the service, aside from the mis-communication with the kitchen to be excellent. With specials under the $30.00 price point including sides, it was quite reasonably priced for Honolulu. Try it nex time you are in Honolulu.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Wild Chickens of Kauai

No chronicle of Kauai is complete without some mention of the ubiquitous wild chickens. We heard numerous stories about the chickens ranging from a humorous statement that "there is only one KFC on Kauai" to the impact of hurricanes freeing fighting cocks that mated with the wild chickens to create wild chickens that are not just common, but more aggressive.
From Taro Fields North Shore
From Taro Fields North Shore

Spouting Horn

My friend Dianne Draper used to live in Hawaii. She said Spouting Horn was the best place to buy the unique Ni'hau leis made of shells found only on that island west of Kauai. I couldn't afford the lovely leis, but we did get some typical pictures of the spouting horn area. As was so common on our vacation, the rain grays out the pictures a bit.
From Spouting Horn
From Spouting Horn

Kilauea Point

The first time we tried to visit this gorgeous lighthouse, it rained so hard we could barely see the lighthouse. We went on to Ke'e Beach and came back to take some pictures of this lovely place. We even had actual sunshine!
From Kilauea Point

From Kilauea Point

The birds were incredible and it was interesting to look down at the variety of colors in the water.
From Kilauea Point

Of course, I couldn't resist taking pictures of this charming Episcopal Church in the nearby town.
From Kilauea Point
I thought the grounds of the church were spectacular.
From Kilauea Point

Monday, April 20, 2009

The view from our Kauai room

I found myself totally absorbed in watching the ocean and listening to the surf. It was my first trip to Hawaii and, truth be told, the first time I'd really spend much time at all near the shore. Bright and early our first morning in Kauai, I slipped out on the lanai to check out the water I had more sensed than seen the night before when we checked in. Imagine my surprise to find a cruise ship in our little cove!
From Cruise Ship
Kalapaki beach is part of Anchor Cove and we soon learned that Anchor cove was aptly named -- it appeared to be the main port for the island.

We quickly learned about the latest thing in water sports -- paddle surfing!
From Kalapaki Marriott
If you are wondering about the darkness in the photo -- it rained most of our trip, so these were the best pictures we got of the paddle surfers.
From Kalapaki Marriott

Feeding the Koi

At the Marriott complex on Kalapaki beach and Anchor cove, there is a lovely pond that meanders through the property. At 9 each morning is feeding time at the pond and it is quite an amazing display.
From Kalapaki Marriott
Those fish are really cutthroat about the whole thing, pushing and shoving and even "leaping" out of the water entirely and onto the edge of the pool!
From Kalapaki Marriott

At last, Hawaii!

I think I can get to some of the pictures from Hawaii, finally! Our first nice lunch was at Kilohana Plantation just outside Lihue on Kauai. I cannot find the pictures, but the Ahi sandwich has become my new standard for tuna. Pickled ginger rally added a great touch and the sandwich was topped with crisp veggies and sprouts. I now make it without the bread for a super quick main dish.
The food pictures may be missing, but there are some pictures of the plantation taken from the train on the little tour.
From Kilohana Plantation
This is the old plantation house which now houses Gaylord restaurant which is one of the best on the island I am told.
From Kilohana Plantation
This old sugar plantation is apparently on the forefront exploring alternatives to sugar as sugar becomes less profitable as a crop.
From Kilohana Plantation

From Kilohana Plantation

From Kilohana Plantation
Feeding the wild pigs is a highlight on the train ride. There is one sheep in the same area with the pigs and the sheep leisurely saunters in after the rush of pigs. It is probably safer that way and the sheep has to know there are some scraps held back especially for him.
From Kilohana Plantation
They do a nice job of showing the entire process of growing taro. Taro is the primary ingredient of the infamous poi every Hawaiian visitor has to experience. Taro that is parboiled and baked is known as Island Sweet Potato and is served as a side dish. It is incredibly sweet, but tasty. The cooked taro is mashed and mixed with water to make poi. Poi is a rather tasteless dish that can be nice when it is mixed with other foods. As it ages, it develops a very distinct tang for which one must apparently develop a taste!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Could we have a definition of fascist?

I'm certainly not the first to observe that we have become a nation of name-callers. If I disagree with you, you are a (pick one or more):
  1. Fascist
  2. Commie
  3. Terrorist
  4. Socialist
  5. nose picker
Susan Roesgen of CNN interviewed a tea party participant who could only describe our President as a fascist:

Her best course might have been to ask the fellow how he defined fascist. I suspect he doesn't have any idea of the definition.
Thus, I offer a definition from Wikipedia:
Fascism is a radical, authoritarian, and nationalist ideology. Fascists advocate the creation of a single-party state. Fascists believe that nations and races are in perpetual conflict whereby only the strong can survive by being healthy, vital, and by asserting themselves in combat against the weak. Fascist governments forbid and suppress criticism and opposition to the government and the fascist movement. Fascism opposes class conflict and blames capitalist liberal democracies for creating class conflict and in turn blames communists for exploiting class conflict. Many fascist leaders have claimed to support a "Third Way" in economic policy, which is neither capitalism nor communism.

I am greatly tempted to discuss activities conducted by the previous administration in the context of this definition, but I will just say that, as far as I can tell, the only part of this definition that applies to the current administration is capitalist liberal democracy.
Sticks and stones may break my bones...
Can we get come in from recess now?

Arguing is Not Reporting

Yes, I was hard on Neil Cavuto. I do not regret it because I believe it was well deserved. I am equally hard on anyone who goes "beyond the bounds of impartiality" as a "journalist."
Thus I must highlight that CNN's Susan Roesgen was equally out of bounds when she argued with a protester in her interview:

That is not to say that her source is correct in his interpretation of Lincoln, but it is to say that Roesgen moved from reporting to arguing.
There was little of classic journalism in any reporting on the tea parties yesterday.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Party? Neil Covuto a Journalist?

Can we talk about responsible reporting? The role of a reporter is to report news, not create it. I was not going to say anything about these "Tea Party" events, but I've been watching Fox News and what I see offends me as one who attended the William Allen White School of Journalism (what some of its cynical students call the William Allen White School of Yellow Journalism and Muckraking).
For those who are not students of journalism history, yellow journalism refers to a trend in the early 1900s when the competition for readers (and their money) led to some pretty scurrilous techniques to win circulation numbers (some things never change). Characteristics included huge scare headlines about minor stories, faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudo-science, and false or misleading information from so-called experts, dramatic sympathy for underdog of the "system," among other things.
A hundred years later, we seem to be in a similar situation with cable news networks. I have heard reports that the moving force behind today's "Tea Party" activities was Fox News. I'm reluctant to assign blame because, honestly, I do not know this to be the truth. There has been plenty of talk about the events on mainstream news shows as well as Fox and its competitors. What I did observe as I watched Fox News was Neil Cavuto making news, not reporting it. Certainly the ads I saw promoting "Tea Party" coverage seemed to be more along the lines of creating a news event than simply promoting coverage of a spontaneous event. When Fox News can switch monitors and ask leading questions of the gathered crowd, it goes beyond reporting and becomes instigation. When Cavuto interviews a 9 year old child, asking "How does it make you feel to know that you will have to pay for all this government spending?" it is not a journalist asking a reasonable question of a source. It is the kind of leading question that would get a true journalist fired from any reputable news organization. It certainly would be deserving of a low grade at WAW School of Journalism. Cavuto frequently asked his interviewees if they came because of him or because they wanted to protest taxes. Fox News coverage of these "Tea Party" activities feels to me like the yellow journalism of a hundred years ago.
Fox promos of their "Tea Party" coverage become the scary headlines about minor stories. Interviews with 9-year old "sources" comes close to a faked interview, particularly when the questions are unnecessarily leading. Interviews with people who claim taxes are killing them when the fact is that taxes today are at the lowest rates (in most cases) in more than 12 years certainly resembles misleading information from so-called experts. Sounds like the classic definition of yellow journalism to me!
Much of what I see on cable news networks falls in a similar category, but Cavuto's blatant appeal for numbers thinly disguised as news reporting reaches a low not seen in nearly 100 years. I hope it does not take a century to reach the muckraker stage where journalists undertake true investigative reporting, to dig through the "muck" to get at the origins of the news stories that shape our views of the world!

Monday, April 13, 2009

C & E Christians

The choir loft is an amazing place from which to worship because it provides a panoramic perspective. Christmas and Easter offer particularly good opportunities to observe because a choir member is part of multiple iterations of the same basic service. Our attentions can wander because we've already heard the sermon, the songs, the prayers.
Those are also the services when there are extra chairs set up to accommodate the overflow crowd. The overflow has many causes. A goodly number of the people in the pews sit in the same pews many Sundays throughout the year, just not every Sunday in the year at the same time on the same days. No one has to catch an early flight for work the next day, the ski season is in tourist mode or winding down, football season is over (Easter) or nearly over (Christmas) and none of the sports of the current season interfere with worship. Others in the pews are visiting family and would, on any other Sunday, be sitting in the pews of their home churches.
The rest come to the celebrations. But they miss the reason for the celebrations. They are not thinking about the crucifixion when they sing the Christmas carols and they are not thinking about it when they sing Alleluia on Easter Sunday morning. They miss the call to community which is a call of pain that makes the joy all the more sweet.
I read a wonderful midrash on the garden of Eden that, burned down to basics, said we owe a great deal to the much maligned Eve because, without the pain of the fall, there would be no true joy. The thought has stuck with me for more than 10 years now. The implications are significant. If there had been no Adam and Eve, no tree, no serpent, there would have been no need for God to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to establish the covenant, no need for Jesus to be born or to die to renew a covenant. Or there might have been some other humans to fail...
But the facts of faith being what they are, there was a fall, there is sin and there is a continuing need to be called into covenant with God. And part of that covenant is being called to faith in community. Cantor Regina Y. Heit at Congregation Emanuel in Denver talks about the specific instructions for the building of the ark being the ultimate community building exercise. I think she is right and I think God was right in asking God's people to be in community.
We come together in community because it is in community that we are at our best (and worst), where we accept and are accepted by others. As our adult education classes visited with representatives of various faith traditions about how their faith impacted their choices in life's challenging times, I was surprised over and over again by the community. The Hindus and Zen Buddhists certainly practice their faith in private, but they also come together in community for worship and fellowship, to be with others who believe the same things. The Maggid who spoke to us spoke directly of community as being there at the important times of life -- after a new baby is born, at times of remembrance, at times of death. Certainly our Islamic scholar could visit Mecca at any time, but the importance of a ritual pilgrimage in a community makes the trip more important, even a life altering event. The five specific times to be attentive to God can be done alone, but is all the more important in community.
For Christians, it is the same. Yes, you can have an intense personal relationship with God, but it is in community that the personal relationship is fulfilled, that we wrestle with the hard times in life and celebrate the little blessings, that we struggle with living out our faith beyond the doors of the church, where we feel free to ask the "Why?" questions. And part of that community is participating, not just in the parties, but in the betrayal, the dark despair of Gethsemane, the agony of the cross. Without those, the Alleluias of Easter are just words.

Urggghhh!!! Sometimes I hate computers!

I know, I know, I promised Hawaii pictures weeks ago. The whole process has been layered with minor and relatively major disasters. The relatively major disaster was my own doing. I did not back up my computer before trying to move all my pictures to my data drive.
I've been creating directories and moving directories for more years than I care to admit (hint, my first such activities involved Z-DOS and dual floppy drives). I had not, however, moved directories from one drive to another, particularly directories to which the start menu points. Everything seemed to go just fine, I put the computer to sleep and I went to bed. Overnight, Microsoft updated the operating system and, when I woke up my computer the next day, all my pictures were missing in lala land. they are still missing.
Now burned by Vista, I downloaded my SD cards with Hawaii pictures on my desktop XP system. I don't want to say we got carried away with severe "shutter finger," but the pictures could not fit on a CD. My dear husband burned a DVD of our Hawaii pictures, but my laptop seems unwilling to open the pictures on the DVD.
So I'm at a standstill.
The minor disasters were not really disasters at all, just the normal events of life -- a lot more time spent coordinating adult education activities as my church than I anticipated, tax time, an overload of household chores including an effort to de-clutter my home and life, etc.
I will soon use the XP system to create my blogs with Hawaii pictures. I promise, I really, really, promise!