Thursday, April 30, 2009

Flying the Friendly Skies

Things that are annoying regarding flying:

1) The pilot getting on the intercom after you've started to leave the gate and announcing that you will be going back to the gate because the plane is too heavy and one passenger will have to get off. He says "I know it sounds silly to say that the removal of one passenger will make a difference, but believe me, it will."

2) Waiting 25 minutes for a passenger to decide to take whatever perks the airline is offering and get off the damn plane.

3) Listening to the flight attendant begin her safety speech again like we haven't just heard it.

4) Turning around and going BACK to the gate because the removal of one passenger surprisngly did NOT lighten the plane enough to take off safely.

5) Waiting another 20 minutes for yet another passenger to deplane.

6) The landing gear making an alarming screech, followed by an alarming thud the moment the plane's nose in the air

7) Passengers panicking over said landing gear hoopla

8) Being told by the pilot as you descend that, due to your landing gear making alarming noises upon take off, you will be greeted by fire trucks on the runway and will have to undergo a plane inspection before pulling up to the gate

9) Having to run across the concourse with two minutes to spare to make your connection and having the other passengers glare at you as you have to scramble over them (also glaring as you make loud, bitchy remarks about their totally oversized luggage taking up all the room in the carry-on bins)

10) Finding out there is no beverage service between Detroit and Indianapolis.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Perfect Weekend

The first great weekend of spring: 80 degree weather, firing up the grill for the first time, and cold beer all around. Throw in a few games of tennis and you've got yourself a weekend.

Noe manning the grill

Marinated chicken thighs - YUM

Drinking a Blue Moon and wishing it were Oberon

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Captain, My Captain

Last Saturday, Noe and I headed to the Captain Daniel Packer Inne for the second time. We were accompanied by Noe's sidekick Ryan.

When we ate at Daniel Packer the first time, I was less-than-impressed with my salad (a promising champagne vinaigrette and strawberry confection that turned out to be absolutely DRENCHED in dressing) but had a knock-my-socks-off entree of delicious baked scallops with herb butter, bread crumbs, and cheddar cheese.

This time, it was the salad that stole the show - frisee greens with pears, candied walnuts, red onions, and a honey vinaigrette, with some asiago cheese thrown in for good measure. The frisee had just the right degree of bitterness (not a lot, but enough to make it interesting), the pears were crisp and juicy (rather than mealy - ugh!) and the red onion had that sharp bite that - with the flavor of the greens - kept the pear and honey combination from being cloyingly sweet. (I would have gone with regular toasted rather than candied walnuts, but hey - it's a very minor complaint).

My entree, on the other hand, was not that memorable. I had Veal Homard - veal loin sauteed with big chunks of fresh lobster and shiitake mushrooms, finished with a Madiera demi glace and truffle oil, seasoned with aromatics. While the meat was cooked perfectly and the lobster chunks were indeed large and abundant, I just didn't get a lot out of this dish flavor-wise. It never lived up to that fabulous, aromatic smell, the natural sweetness of the lobster was somewhat lost in under the demi glace, and the truffle oil didn't make any impact whatsoever. There was nothing bad about this dish; it just wasn't a stand-out for me. There was simultaneously too much and not enough going on.

Veal Homard - not bad, but not spectacular

Likewise, Noe's Blackjack Sirloin - so good last time - just tasted like the grill on this visit, rather than the peppercorns it was seasoned with (it must have just been an off night where this is concerned, because last time it was incredibly good - and the meat this time was still a nice cut and perfectly cooked to order).

Blackjack Sirloin - perfectly cooked, yet tasted like grill

Ryan went for one of the nightly specials and one of the more exotic dishes on the menu - braised antelope. He did let me try a bite - gamey, but what else would you expect from an antelope? The gaminess would not phase anyone who has ever eaten venison - I think regular old Michigan deer may even be a little gamier (or maybe they just have their own flavor). At any rate, the antelope was very good, although probably not for everyone.

Braised Antelope - exotic AND delicious!

Although the entrees were not quite up to the standard we enjoyed the first time we visited, we still really enjoy the DPI. The atmosphere - an old farmhouse on the water in Mystic, with several tiny dining rooms - is also enjoyable. I'd still recommend it to anyone looking for a quality, more upscale meal.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Things I Intend to Use This Week

1) Mountain Bike - will use to ride to work (it's nice enough weather and close enough distance that there is no excuse to put it off any longer) and perhaps Noe and I will ride at Bluff Point next weekend.

2) Tennis racquet - tennis lessons start tomorrow! Yay! I know it won't be as good as Ryan and Gary, but I am dying to play again.

3) Golf clubs - I inherited these when Noe bought new clubs, although he bought me my new bag to carry them in as a present. I used these today at the driving range - I was terrible. It was nice to be outside, though!

4) Buns the cat - wait a second...she doesn't really fit in with all this athletic equipment...although I did put her on a harness and walk her around the backyard; does that count as exercise?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bacon Magic

Yes, this is what you think it is: pork wrapped in bacon. I went there, and it was glorious.

Essentially I took pork tenderloin, rubbed it all over with garlic (I may have cut a few slits and stuffed some small garlic slivers in there as well), seasoned it with salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence, then wrapped the whole thing in bacon and tied it up with kitchen twine. I seared it in a frying pan until the sides were browned then finished by roasting it in the oven.

The garlicky, herby bites of bacon I sneaked while cutting the twine off were almost worth the trouble themselves. The tenderloins were out of this world - juicy, flavorful, and - hello! - wrapped in bacon.

This is not for anyone who is worried about their weight or cardiac health. If you want the recipe, comment or email me and I'll cobble it together for you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Something Newport

I had Monday off work (yay Catholics!) so Noe and I decided to drive over to Newport, Rhode Island. Newport is about an hour or so north east-ish from New London, right on the water. (I still don't understand why Rhode Island is its own state - or called an island - but I can't deny they have some nice coastline.) To reach the town itself, we drove over something that looked like a mini Mackinac Bridge.

Mini Mac?

Being a Monday afternoon, Newport was pretty dead. Noe and I bummed around by the piers for a little while and browsed some shops - including one where you could essentially buy your lobster fresh off the boat - but we got bored quickly and headed down to the Tennis Hall of Fame.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame

I had sort of imagined the Tennis Hall of Fame as a large estate on expansive grounds. It's not. It is in an old casino wedged into a row of shops across the street from a thoroughly modern strip mall.

It may not look like much from the front, but once you walk under the green awning, you're transported into an entirely different time and place. You step off the streets of Newport and onto the oldest grass tennis court in America.

That's more like it.

I have been intrigued by the idea of grass courts ever since I seriously began watching tennis about three years ago. I really had failed to notice up to that point that tennis was played on different surfaces. I guess I thought everyone played on hard courts, which I now realize is pretty stupid, considering the only tennis event I could have named back then - Wimbledon - is famously played on grass.

I want to play on a grass court because I want to see how the softer surface affects the bounce and speed of the ball. Since I have only played on hard courts, the idea of playing on grass is completely exotic.

I digress.

Ten bucks buys you admission to the museum and the grounds, so we poked around the museum first (Noe and I are such nerds, I know). The displays cover everything from the origins of the game - Henry VIII was an avid "court tennis" player - to the modern hall of famers. There's a large display devoted to the infamous Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs showdown, some fun displays of old-time tennis outfits, and a LOT of racquets.

I think I want the one with the bow.

When we were finished inside (meaning Noe had successfully pried me away from the life-size photos of Andy Roddick and Rafa Nadal) we explored the grounds.


I had no trouble at all imagining people in turn-of-the-century clothing sitting in the grandstands, taking in a game and drinking lemonade. I desperately wanted to run out on the courts, but the presence of two suspicious lawn boys kept my behavior in check.

On my best - reluctant - behavior.

Visiting the hall of fame reminded me how much I really miss tennis. I started playing right before we moved, played that entire summer, and haven't played since. Well, when we got home from Newport I went online, and lo and behold, I found tennis lessons through the Groton Parks and Rec department. I know I'm not going to luck out the way I did in Ann Arbor with Ryan and Gary, but at least, I'll get to play again. I start next week and I am already dreading how rusty I am sure to be.

Noe and I finished our day in Newport by walking part of the Cliff Walk, a 3.5 mile stretch on the bluffs overlooking the ocean. We stuck around Salve Regina University and the Bellevue mansions - pretty nice digs.

Me on the Cliff Walk

The Breakers

It was a nice, relaxing day off made even better by the promise of tennis on the horizon. So far I'd say spring is off to a good start.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Shaken, not stirred.

This past Sunday, my good friends John and Katie came up with the brilliant idea to have a James Bond party. Who doesn't love Bond? (Not anyone I've ever met.) As usual, the party was an excuse for us to dress up, drink somewhat expensive booze, and revel in our own classiness (not really about the reveling part).

John Bond-Felty

Trifecta Bond-ing

The best thing about parties at John and Katie's is they never ignore the details. For the Bond party, they made sure we had all ingredients on hand - or as close as we could get to the original ingredients - for Vesper martinis, 007's signature "shaken, not stirred" cocktail.

The Vesper as written in 1953 by Ian Fleming (Casino Royale) was made as follows:

"Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large, thin slice of lemon peel."

James also drank it in a champagne flute (or "goblet") rather than a martini glass.

Vesper ingredients, circa 2009

The problem with updating the Vesper is that booze itself has changed since 1953. Both the gin and vodka were stronger (Stoli would have been 100 proof). Kina Lillet no longer exists. However, we did our best with Boodles gin and Lillet Blanc. We didn't worry about the glassware since martini glasses are bigger now (Bond's whole reason for ordering the drink in a champagne goblet was for larger portion size).

(For more on the evolution of the Vesper, check out this article from Esquire.)

Anyway, our version of the Vesper as mixed by John Felty was delicious - if you like drinks that taste like booze that is, which I do. It was cold and refreshing and honestly, how can you not love something that has gin AND vodka? Bonus points to the Vesper for being so aewsome that it even looks classy when served in a plastic martini glass.

No one needs to booze to realize that Daniel Craig insanely sexy. The guys may have regretted planning a double feature of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace when they realized they'd be watching with six or seven girls who all sighed in delight every time Daniel Craig graced the screen.

Overall, it was a great party - good movies, good food, good booze, and excellent company. I will be anxiously awaiting the next party - and the next Bond movie, for that matter - but for now, I leave you with photos:

Strawberry Fields with three random Bond girls in black

D-Train with the Bond girls

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