Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Farewell, Phoebe Snow

If you asked me what singer best embodied the “sound of the ‘70s”, Phoebe Snow would certainly be at the top of my list. So I was saddened to learn that Phoebe died this morning in Edison, NJ, from complications of a brain haemorrhage she suffered over a year ago. She was only 58 years old.

Who can forget her biggest hit, the sultry “Poetry Man”?

You are a genie
All I ask for is your smile
Each time I rub the lamp
When I am with you
I have a giggling teenage crush
Then I'm a sultry vamp, yeah sultry vamp

Talk to me some more
You don't have to go
You're the poetry man
You make things all right, yeah, yeah

Who was the real-life poetry man? In 1989, Phoebe went on the record to say that despite rumors to the contrary, it was not singer/songwriter Jackson Brown. "No, no. It's somebody you wouldn't know. People just thought Poetry Man was Browne because he was the first act I toured with," she told USA Today.

Phoebe’s career ended about as quickly as it began. In 1975, she gave birth to her daughter, Valerie, who suffered from serious build-up of fluid in her brain. Not expected to live for more than a few years, Valerie lived 31 years, and Phoebe gave up her musical career and dedicated her life to caring for her daughter.

"She was the only thing that was holding me together," she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2008. "My life was her, completely about her, from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed at night."

Phoebe did eventually return to the recording studio, but her later material never matched the success of “Poetry Man”. She also sang the theme song for “A Different World” (a spin-off of The Cosby Show that starred Lisa Bonet as a college student at the fictional Hillman College) as well as the TV commercial jingle for General Foods International Coffees (remember “Celebrate the Moments of Your Life”?).

I thought you might like to hear a lesser-known performance by Phoebe Snow. This is from her 1979 appearance on Saturday Night Live, where she sang “The Married Men” with Linda Ronstadt. I love Linda too, but I think Phoebe blows her away in this clip.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The best burger in Boston?

Thanks to a Groupon that entitled us to $50 worth of food for just $25, we really enjoyed our dinner tonight at Sel de la Terre on Boylston Street in the Back Bay of Boston. (What would have made it even better would be if Massachusetts still allowed Groupons to be applied toward alcohol. Last month, the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission decided that Groupon dinner discounts were no longer in compliance with state liquor laws and regulations. For real? How disgustingly puritanical are we here in New England?)

Anyhow, I did manage to enjoy my dinner without a frosty beer or dirty gin martini to wash it all down. We started with the charcuterie plate, which offered up a selection of duck liver mousse, pig ear terrine (yes, “pig ear”), bresaola (dried beef), blood sausage, served with pickled onions, jam, mustard, and delicious grilled bread. We also split an appetizer portion of grilled razor sea clams served with savory, salty lardons. As if we were still hungry (hey, we had to spend $50!), we each got the house burger, cooked medium, and topped with Vermont cheddar, spicy aioli, and a slice of crispy pancetta. Oh, did I mention the fries? Thin shoestring cut potatoes, perfectly crispy and salty, dusted with fresh rosemary. YUM. How do you think my sodium-free diet is going?!

Next time you’re in Boston, check out the burger at Sel de la Terre.  In addition to their Back Bay location, they also have restaurants on Long Wharf (near the Aquarium) and in the town of Natick.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My friend Meri-K featured on the TODAY show

Meri-K Appy, my very good friend, and former work colleague, was featured on this morning's TODAY show on NBC. Meri-K, who's a bigwig with the Home Safety Council/SAFE KIDS USA in Washington, DC, talked with Natalie Morales about the five major dangers in our homes: falls, poisoning, fires/burns, choking, and drowning. Meri-K is the quintisenntial "safety nerd" -- we used to joke that she'd happily strap on a helmet to make a conference call! Years ago, she was a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and was demonstrating what to do if your clothes caught on fire - the classic "stop, drop, and roll" technique. I remember laughing because the overzealous cameraman zoomed in to show Meri-K covering her face with her hands and got an up close and personal view of her nostrils! Meri-K is also a great sport, so I'm using this blog to tease her a little bit, but to offer my hearty congratulations on a job well done on the TODAY show.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sarah Palin says Obama is "over his head"

I guess she can relate. And she's a fan of Donald Trump. How about she and Mr. Trump stop all the noise and distraction and let serious politicians step up to the plate? She makes me want to barf up my linzertorte.

Try this: the Von Trapp family linzertorte

Yup, I admit it. I can't stand "The Sound of Music." (I know...bucking the stereotype and all.) But despite my disregard for "My Favorite Things" and a gaggle of stern nuns with hearts of gold, I would have to admit that the Von Trapp family sure know how to make a tasty dessert. This past winter, we visited Stowe, VT, twice (for skiing), and during both visits, we stopped by the Trapp Family Lodge, the American homestead of the warbling brood. During our first visit, we stopped by the bakery on the property and picked up a delicious apple struedel. The second time we visited, we did a quick tour of the resort and gift shop and we purchased a postcard that featured the recipe for the linzertorte they sell in the bakery.

We've got family visiting this weekend and thought a delicious linzertorte would be a great finale to our giant casserole dish filled with homemade choucroute that we're serving for dinner tomorrow night. (Peter spent the afternoon pulling together this famous Alsacian dish featuring sauerkraut with sausages, ham hocks, frankfurters, aromatic vegetables, juniper berries, potatoes, and other sultry ingredients.)

Anyway, I thought I'd share the recipe for the linzertorte with you. Strangely, the postcard calls it "Marshall's World Famous Linzertorte" with no reference to Maria, Louisa, Friedrich, Kurt, Doc, Sleepy, Sneezy or any other character from the movie. But I really don't care -- the torte sure does smell great, and I'm expecting rave reviews when we serve it Thursday night.

Note: this recipe makes TWO tortes.

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 pound butter (softened)
1 egg
1 1/2 cups ground walnuts
3 rounded cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup each of currant jelly and raspberry jam

  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg, ground walnuts, flour, and spices. Work into dough.
  2. Divide dough into quarters.
  3. Press one of the quarters into the bottom of a greased and floured 8 inch pan (we used one of those cheesecake forms with the removable sides)
  4. Using another quarter, roll the dough flat and cut into 1/2 inch strips. Use a few to line the sides of the pan (you don't need to go very high -- just a nice little edge).
  5. Mix the jelly and jam and spoon half into the crust and spread evenly.
  6. Use the remaining strips and place on top of the torte in a weaving design. Sprinkle top with 1/8 cup of the almonds
  7. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and the jam mixture is bubbling.
  8. Remove from the oven, let cool, and remove from the pan.
  9. Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar.
  10. Repeat above steps using the other two quarters of dough, remaining jam mixture, and almonds. 

Our lamb has been shorn for spring

Otis got his spring bath and grooming just in time. Peter's sister, brother-in-law, and niece are coming to visit for the weekend, and the pooch was in dire need of a clean-up so he looked and smelled clean. His groomer Michelle did an awesome job, as usual, giving him a "high and tight" cut. And all bias aside, I would have to admit that he's looking quite dapper and ready for company. Below are his "before" and "after" portraits.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Try this: Martha's New Spinach Salad

I tried out a great new recipe from the latest issue of Martha Stewart's magazine tonight. Both Peter and I love to cook - but I was especially inspired when I saw some of my online friends Blobby and Bo were posting tales of their latest, delicious-looking adventures in the kitchen. 

So over the weekend, I clipped out Martha's recipe for "New Spinach Salad", her modern take on the classic mixture of spinach, hard-boiled egg, and bacon. It was my first time poaching eggs, and I must admit that they came out quite beautifully. In fact, once I had composed the salads on our plates for dinner, I was so taken by their beauty that I commenced chowing down without snapping a photo. So you'll have to believe me that I actually made this recipe. 

It's pretty simple...and looks great on the plate. Very sophisticated, don't you know? If you try it, let me know what you think. 

Martha's New Spinach Salad

For the poached eggs
1 tablespoon white vinegar
4 large eggs

For the salad
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 (or more) fingerling potatoes, blanched and sliced crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices
5 ounces baby spinach
one link of cooked (not dried) chorizo, sliced crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices

For the dressing
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
salt and pepper

  1. Poach the eggs. Add white vinegar to a large saucepan of simmering water. Crack eggs into water, 1 at a time. Poach until whites are set but yolks are still runny, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate using a slotted spoon.
  2. Make the salad. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. Cook potatoes until golden, about 5-6 minutes per side. Transfer to a large bowl using a slotted spoon and add spinach. Add remaining tablespoon of oil to skillet. Cook chorizo until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Add to bowl using slotted spoon.
  3. Make the dressing. Remove skillet from heat. Add shallot and let cook for 30 seconds. Swirl in vinegar.
  4. Pour dressing over salad and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Divide salad among four plates. Top each with an egg.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Follow the bouncing heads

Bobble-headed children playing guitars. My sister-in-law had the funniest comment: "I thought cloning was illegal!"

Chicken pot pie roadtrip

Last night, after some recent ribbing that Peter and I never venture past the northern border of Boston city limits, we joined a convoy headed to the seacoast town of Winthrop. There were eight of us, all who live here in our South Boston condo building, and we piled into two cars: one filled with ladies and one filled with the guys. Our destination was the Winthrop Arms Hotel, a blast from the past with a huge lobby with checked white tile floors and big comfy couches which were perfect for enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail.

As we headed into the dining room, the manager/maitre d’ told us to enjoy our dinner, and to be sure to visit the restrooms, “the cleanest in the city!” There was a full menu but there was no doubt about what I was ordering. Our friends had been talking up the homemade chicken pot pie, and being a self-proclaimed pot pie affecianado (and snob), I eagerly ordered my dinner. I was not disappointed. The buttery crust completely enveloped a huge bowl of delicious pieces of roasted chicken, rich gravy, and assorted fresh vegetables. Not a dish for the diet-conscious, but hey, life is short, right?

Even better than my delicious dinner was a chance to hang out with Peter, Mary Ann, Jan, Joanne, Robb, Phyllis, and Salvador. It was the first time we’d all been together socially and we had a lot of laughs. In fact, we decided that our next get-together would be a retro (circa 1955) potluck dinner. Think tuna noodle casseroles, pretty Jello molds, cheese balls, deviled eggs, and olive loaf. Am I making you hungry?

PS: Here’s a gratuitous photo of Salvador – not from last night’s dinner – but in response to his complaints that I never run photos of him on my blog. The nerve…

Monday, April 11, 2011

A crappy story

When I started this blog nearly a year ago, I promised myself that I’d never resort to “potty humor”. I’m not sure this entry exactly qualifies as “potty humor” but I thought this particular story was certainly blog-worthy.

This morning at work, I visited the men’s room. As I entered, I heard a woman’s voice. It sounded tinny, sort of like the voices you’d hear coming out of your favorite AM station on those little transistor radios we all had in the 1970s. I could make out a few words here and there, and then suddenly, a man’s voice jumped in, just as tinny as the woman’s voice. And then I could make out their words. They were arguing whether it was right or wrong to demand President Obama to hand over his birth certificate for public review. Yes, someone was in one of the stalls in the men’s room at work, listening to talk radio at full volume!

Really? Was the “Man Behind Door #2” (pun intended) so engrossed in the conversation about birth certificates that he couldn’t tear him self away to take care of his own business? Has he never heard of earphones? And the bigger question: would it have been appropriate for the man behind door #3 to ask for a station change? Perhaps something with a beat that was easy to dance to?

Not too long back, I was in the locker room at my gym and heard a man carrying on a business conversation while he was on the can. All around him, toilets were flushing, showers were running, guys were yelling back and forth – so it must have been pretty obvious to the people on the other end of the line where Mr. Multitasker had chosen to take this phone call.

Have you ever brought your radio into a public bathroom, or made a business call while you were otherwise indisposed? If so, please share your story. This I gotta hear…

Saturday, April 9, 2011

One Dog Night

I would love to train Otis to do this. He's a natural ham, so it may not take too much work!

It's been a while

It's been nearly a month since I last posted. It's been a particularly hectic few weeks at work, with several new projects on my desk. We also took a vacation with my folks -- traveled to Amsterdam with a quick overnight side-trip to Paris. It was a wonderful get-away -- and I'll be posting some photos soon. Just wanted to check in and put a paragraph up here before someone filed a "missing person" report.

It was a beautiful spring day here in Boston. Here's a shot of Otis and me at Castle Island this afternoon. We had just taken him to the 'dog spa' where we gave him a bath, so we figured a visit to Castle Island, where he could run off all of the trauma associated with bath time, was in order.


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