Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mischa's Almond Jelly recipe

Ever since I encountered Maria's almond jelly at Hancock Street a few weeks ago, I've managed to perfect a simple recipe that I will share. The ingredients are a bit hard to find but that's part of the fun - poking around in Chinatown on a quest to find everything. Who knows what you will discover along the way?

Mischa'a Almond Jelly

  1. In a medium bowl, dissolve 3/4 cup of almond flour into 2 cups of water to make almond milk. Add 2 cups of whole milk and set aside.
  2. Boil an additional 2 cups of water in a medium pot. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar (do not use artificial sweetener) and 1 heaping teaspoon of agar powder. Stir until dissolved.
  3. Slowly add the milk mixture, then remove from heat and keep stirring for a few minutes.
  4. Strain into another pot and ladle into a sheet pan or mould, removing bubbles from the surface.
  5. Cover with cellophane so there is no air between wrap and the surface of the jelly. My theory is that this will prevent a "skin" from forming on the jelly.  
  6. Refrigerate until set and cut into pieces. Serve with fruit and a little bit of syrup. I like to use canned lychee and Mandarin orange slices.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Fun days and nights

Katie M and I had an epic 34 hour friend date last week. We started on Wednesday morning at the theater showing "Hamilton" to try and win Broadway's most competitive ticket lottery but we were not successful so we had lunch at The Delta Grill, a 9th Avenue Cajun restaurant that I've wanted to try for years. Their crawfish etouffee isn't nearly as good as Pappadeaux's in Houston (too bland) but it does the job when I'm craving it. Afterwards we came back to TSMC and watched "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" until it was time to try the second Hamilton lottery for the evening show, at which we again came up empty-handed.

We walked to Riverside Park and sat by the banks of the mighty Hudson River, watching the kayakers and the glorious sunset that reminded me of a J.M.W. Turner painting. We walked up to the 68th Street cafe and might have gone out on the pier except it was being set up to be used for an outdoor movie screening. So we climbed the steps and walked a few blocks south to Lincoln Center and had dinner at P.J. Clarke's, where Liz and her family hosted their Easter brunch before "The King and I" earlier this year ("Big big birthdays" - April 20, 2015).

We snagged one of the best tables in the restaurant, sitting in a wide-open doorway space directly across from Lincoln Center with a perfect mix of indoor and outdoor ambiance. Katie had a steak and mashed potatoes with a glass of red wine; I had some cherrystone clams on the half shell and a burger au poivre with a bottle of Crispin pear cider. We shared a fabulously light and tasty whiskey bread pudding for dessert. It was quite the epic meal, in every way, and we needed the walk back home to digest. We got comfortable on the couch and watched various TV shows before turning in.

Thursday morning I had tentative plans with Puck but they were stuck in Staten Island for the day so I spent most of the day with Katie again. I made her breakfast (that is a first) of bacon and eggs over easy and we watched "Casablanca" before heading out to stand in the line for "The Book of Mormon." She hasn't seen it yet and was determined to see it one way or another that day. We were first in line for standing room tickets but of course we were going to play the lottery as well.

A news crew from NY1 showed up to do a story about cheap theater tickets and Lottery Dude (the guy who runs the lottery at that theater and knows me by name) directed them over to me for an interview. Since I wasn't actually going to see the show unless we won the lottery (I've seen it twice so I didn't want to stand through it) they interviewed Katie on-camera for their piece. We entered the lottery but didn't win, so Katie got her standing room ticket and we went to Kung Fu Noodles for a dinner of soup dumplings, fried duck noodles and chili beef and tripe. We stopped by Katie's office so she could retrieve her umbrella and then back to TSMC to relax before she left for the show.

I spent my evening packing for my trip to Harrisburg and watching "Unbreakable Kimmy Schimdt" on Netflix. Katie came back after the show and we had a quick check-in about our connection and our boundaries before she left for home.

This past Tuesday I had my second job interview with Tasty Sorghum Paste (TSP) and met my potential future boss' boss. I remarked upon the six-foot wooden replica of a fountain pen mounted on her wall, so I did get a chance to talk a little about my interest in fine writing instruments.

After the interview I went home to change (just four avenue blocks away!) and met with a college psychology professor named Marisa at Cafe Bene. She wanted to interview me about polyamory for an article she's writing, so I gave her lots of stuff to chew over. She also invited me to speak about poly to her spring semester class so that might happen next year.

Last Sunday I spent most of the day with Liz, Josh, Victoria, Michelle and Lytle helping move Liz from her rented apartment to her new owned apartment in the next door building. The new place is a four-story walk-up, so there were lots of steps to climb. The biggest challenge of the day was moving the sleeper sofa. Thankfully Lytle had a friend named Steve who lived nearby and was able to give us a hand, or else we'd have never made it. He's a 2nd 2nd assistant director for the HBO show "Girls", which Lytle also works on. Moving that couch was incredibly challenging because the stairways were tight and got narrower as they went higher, so getting from the third to the final fourth floor took as much time as the whole rest of the trip combined. Liz was very nervous about someone getting hurt and rightfully so but the only harm came to the plaster on the walls and a small rip on the arm of the sofa. Looking back, I loved how we all worked as a team, communicating constantly, staying positive, solving problems together and with such determination that we would achieve our goal. It was like winning a team challenge on a TV reality show.

After the move, Liz's parents bought us dinner at Maz Mezcal as a thank you for all our work. We sat outside in the early evening breeze and had some wonderful Mexican food. I had a beautiful shrimp ceviche and grilled shrimp tamales. After our meal we went next door to a beverage store called City Swiggers that carried hundreds upon hundreds of beers, ales and ciders, including my beloved and rare Koppaberg Swedish pear cider. They even had the Koppaberg cider with strawberry and lime, so I picked up one of those to try, along with a raspberry cider and a bottle of Victorian lemonade.

Saturday I met up with Puck in Chinatown after their volunteer shift at Bluestockings so we could shop for ingredients for my peanut noodles. I haven't been able to find the noodles I use at any of my usual grocery stores so I wanted to wander into the parts of Chinatown I'm not as familiar with to see if we could find them. We ended up finding two large grocery stores I'd never seen before near the East Broadway subway stop and I found the noodles at one of them.

Puck was a bit worn out so that night I went to Hancock Street alone for a house event and I'm glad I did because Emily showed up right before I was getting ready to leave so I got to see her for a little bit. She was doing a yoga class in Prospect Park the next day that I was going to have to miss because of Liz's move, so I'm happy I didn't miss her entirely on this trip. Rijard, Miriam and Anna were there of course, but nobody else I knew by name (although one lady knew me from a previous meeting and said hello). I did meet an Asian couple, Maria and David, and Maria brought an almond jelly and peach dish that I used to enjoy as a kid, so I'm going to try and make it someday soon.

I'm hoping that this week I'll hear something from TSP. I've been so encouraged by all the support I've been getting on my #jobhunt updates on Facebook - I know it's a small thing, but it feels good to have so many of my friends and acquaintances cheering me on. So I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for a positive result.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Adventures in Pennsylvania

What a busy time it's been for me! Between the night before Lori and I saw "Single Wide" and last night when I came home from Philadelphia, it's been nine straight nights of activity, friends and travel. The pace slacks off a bit this week, but I do have two job interviews (one by phone) lined up, so it's a different kind of activity. I feel like gainful employment is close around the corner so I'd better get my fun time in while I can.

Saturday the 25th Puck and I went to Mariel's monthly queer art salon/house concert Moonshow. It's kind of like Papacookie for the trans/queer crowd. It got started late so I was only able to see the first two spoken word performances before I had to leave to get from Lefferts Gardens in Brooklyn all the way uptown to near where Papacookie used to be on the Upper West Side for Katie M's friend Kiersten's birthday at E-bar.

Aside from Katie and the birthday girl I didn't know many people there, but I did meet a new acquaintance, Amelia. We were sitting next to each other at the bar and I noticed her bag from the PIT. I asked if she knew Liz's Josh and she knows him well because she directed the Rocky Whorer PIT-ure Show that Katie had attended with me and Liz last October. So even though I knew her name and her connection to me, this is the first time I'd actually met Amelia and we hit it off well since we're both big theater nerds.

On Sunday I had my women's group picnic, which turned into an indoor affair because a storm front moved it just as we were about to set up. This was not much of a disappointment for me because we got to have our picnic in the top floor club house of Nicole's boyfriend's apartment building. There was air conditioning and a pool table and we had a dozen members attend. Plus, the weather moderated so it was pleasant to hang out on the balcony with a lovely view of Queens.

Monday night I saw Katie M for the third night in a row as she came over after work for a sleepover and we watched The Adjustment Bureau. Although this movie has some significance for me personally, Katie didn't enjoy it quite as much as I do.

I got up early the next morning, even before Katie awoke, to meet up with Kacey and Ilona for breakfast at Petite Abeille near Union Square. Ilona has moved to Boston, but this was her last trip to say goodbye to colleagues and get the last of her stuff from school. I had a nice catch up with Kacey since we hadn't seen each other since my birthday. We also went to Pinkberry to cool off from the blazing heat before I went home, Kacey went to Connecticut to visit her mom,  and Ilona left for Boston.

In the evening I met up with Piper at Delmonico's Kitchen in Midtown for a Restaurant Week dinner, a little tradition of ours. I had probably the best roasted chicken dish of my life, a surprisingly good choice. Afterward we continued our Wes Anderson marathon with Moonrise Kingdom, with Storm coming over to join us for that since she hadn't seen it yet. Tomorrow night we'll finish it off with the Best Picture-nominated The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Wednesday I had another Restaurant Week dinner at Limani to catch up with Liz. She just returned from her weekend trip to Houston for a bachelorette party, while I was leaving for Chris' bachelorette party in Harrisburg the following day. After dinner was the night when I was walking home and a guy touched me on the shoulder as I passed him on the sidewalk and said, ""Hey there baby - how you doin'?" A little further down the block, a panhandler made a comment about my dress as well. It makes me angry that street harassment has crossed the line from catcalling to actual physical contact. Unfortunately, I see no real solution other than to plug in my earbuds and ignore them.

The next day Puck and I passed each other at TSMC as they came to do some work while I left to get Yoshi from Staten Island and head out for Harrisburg. Chris and I went to a nearby Vietnamese restaurant for dinner, then visited a winery to have a few drinks on the patio, where a guitarist played some music. Such a lovely spot for this, although the bugs were a bit of a nuisance. In the evening Bruce joined us to continue our Fast & Furious set with #6.

In the morning, Chris' other bridesmaids Eva and Fiona came over and we had brunch at Hershey Pantry, a charming diner that served the largest cinnamon roll I've ever seen! I had a tasty Eggs Benedict with crab meat, and a side of scrapple, a regional meat product that I enjoyed.

After brunch we visited a salt room at a spa and sat in massage chairs as the ionized air flowed around us and we buried our feet in large tubs of salt crystals. I didn't feel much effect, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. Then we drove to another winery and had a flight of wine and cider tastings - one of the ciders was a peanut butter caramel that was very surprising. We finished off the day in Harrisburg at an Indian restaurant where we had dinner and smoked hookah with a blueberry pancake flavoring.

I drove home that same evening, arriving home past 1 am and catching a few hours sleep before Lori met up with me at home and we started our journey down to Philadelphia for a weekend getaway. It's a good thing I like driving! We stopped at the Book Corner used book store first, where I picked up about a dozen cheap books. Lori had a bite to eat at the nearby Whole Foods Store and then I wanted to stop at the Franklin Institute's snack bar because I'd had the best carrot cake cupcake there last time I visited with Puck.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. A wedding closed off the front entrance of the museum. By the time we navigated the side entrance and found an elevator to take us up to the main floor, I got in line at the snack bar only to see the very last cupcake being purchased ahead of me! So we left to check into the hotel, and were delighted to find small pieces of carrot cake at the check-in desk! So I did manage to scratch that itch a little bit.

After settling into the room we headed out for dinner at Jake's Sandwich Board, where I got the off-the-menu Garlic Bomb sandwich that I'd seen on an episode of Food Paradise. I also got Fried Pickles and the Farm Fries. It was actually a little disappointing from a garlic standpoint, but the service was good and Lori really enjoyed her sandwich, so I was happy about that. We walked off the meal in Chinatown before heading back to the hotel for the night.

The next day we had breakfast at Reading Terminal Market and headed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the great museums that I haven't been to yet. There was an Impressionist special exhibit but since it was the First Sunday Pay What You Want Day, we just elected to do general admission for one dollar apiece (hey, I'm on a budget right now). I found my Sargent painting in one of the galleries, which was a nice surprise!

In the Asian Art wing, they had a replica of a 14th century Japanese tea house, which reminded me very much of the Shogun miniseries that Puck, Natalia and I finished watching last month.

Outside the museum, I was amused by the line of tourists waiting to take a picture with the statue of Rocky Balboa. Of course, the front steps of the museum were immortalized in a training scene from the original Best Picture winner, Rocky.

We wandered around the grounds and explored the pathways overlooking the waterworks before leaving for home. Since I had to drop Yoshi off in Staten Island, I dropped Lori off at the train station in New Brunswick so she could get home more directly while I took the long way by ferry back to Manhattan. It was an exhausting four-day weekend, but totally worth it!