Friday, October 26, 2012

Poot Juice

Huzzah! You have no idea how long I have been attempting to write a post, but Blogger has had some weird software glitch that would not let me type for some reason. But now it is back and working, so here I am typing away. Hurray!

Poot juice. The phrase cracks me up every time I hear my daughter say it.  Just this morning, as I listened to the kitchen radio reporting some terrorizing tragedy over my cup of morning coffee...she came into the kitchen and asked, "Mama, I have some poot juice?"  I immediately went from dread to giggles.

Poot juice. Just say it out loud. It is really just the word "poot." This word is a total game changer.  Turns any frown upside down. As far as language development goes, I hope this bit of toddler talk lingers a while.

In fact, I could use a tall glass of poot juice right now. All this election talk has mama's blood pressure up and running.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Butter Flick


When I was a child I was dared to eat a stick of butter.  I didn't like butter, or mayo for that matter.  I choked down half the stick and almost puked. This summer, I took a film studies class and one of the assignments was to make a one minute movie inspired by the modernist movie, Ballet Mèchanique by Fernand Leger (1924, France). Leger used many kitchen objects in the film and abstracted them, transforming the mundane into art.

Today, I love butter. So much so that it inspired this short. Butter makes everything better. 


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fine Food Factory

Remember how I mentioned guerrilla dining a while back?

Check out this table.

The Legend Series II dinner took place in an old
Ford assembly plant on the St. John's River.

Check the view.
The band, The Mast, straight from Brooklyn. 

They played a set while cocktails were enjoyed on the loading dock.

And of course, 
there was the food.

This is my favorite picture of the evening.
I love it because it captures the culinary spirit of the evening.
It is a picture of the dessert course, and the chefs as they put their finishing touches
 on these gorgeous plates. Take a slightly closer look.

The Legend Series Two dinner was a four course meal, each chef prepared an hors d'oeuvre, a single course and a dessert...which you see pictured here. While each course was created by an individual culinary artist, it was executed by the collective of chefs and sous present.

Pictured here from right to left:
Chef Tom Gray, Bistro Aix
Chef Scott Schwartz, 29 South
Chef Sam Effron, Taverna
They work fresh mozzarella.

This is Guy Ferri of Black Sheep Restaurant
 and sous from Bistro Aix and Black Sheep.
They are putting the finishing touches on the second course.
It was amazing to watch these professionals.
The synchronicity was extraordinary, as if they worked together every night of the week.

The food was beautiful.

4th Course. Chef Scott Schwartz
Sausage-stuffed quail with soft polenta, chestnuts, natural jus

The drink was plentiful, thanks to
Palm Bay Imports.

Prosecco, Barolo, Amarone, sense a theme?
Extraordinary Italian varietals each paired with an exquisite dish.
It all came together in a fabulous evening thanks to this lady here:

Mrs. Cari Sanchez-Potter

I am sure she is plotting the next underground dinner...
Curious?  Go here.

Shhh. Keep it on the DL.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Zombie Chomp

Hello folks. It has been a while. The past few months have been maddeningly busy, but that is no excuse. There is so much to share, I don't even know where to begin. In the spirit of existentialism, I suppose I will begin with the present. The picture above is a shot of my bedside table on Wednesday. Tomato soup and grilled cheese are a combo to two choice comfort foods, that I yearn for when I feel vulnerable.  

After having skin cancer surgery, which left my face looking like a zombie chomped my sweet little button nose...lets just say I felt a bit wounded. Yup. The big C. I was told three weeks ago that I have two sites of skin cancer on my face. The first a squamous cell carcinoma on my nose, and the second a basal cell carcinoma on my upper cheek. This Wednesday, I had the former cut off through Mohs surgery. The process is simple. They cut your skin one layer at a time, freeze each layer, make a microscope slide, and look at it for cancer cells. If there is more they cut out another layer, until they get a slide that reads no cancer. 

A girlfriend recommended that I listen to a book on tape during the procedure.  There is a lot of waiting time in between cuts, and this idea seemed like the most brilliant distraction.  When I listen to music, my mind tends to wander off. I didn't want my mind wandering down any dark fearful tunnels. I wanted it safely enveloped in an engaging work of fiction, and as a high school English teacher I felt a certain obligation to read The Hunger Games...but just haven't wanted to dedicate the time. So I took this opportunity, and popped on my head phones as they began to carve and snip away at my face.

The cancer was deep. So deep that they could not sew my nose up with out leaving me disfigured. So they sent me home with a dime size hole in my face to tend to until my skin graft next Friday. They want the wound to "granulate in" so the skin graft will be level with my skin.  I prefer the word "granulate" in the context of sugar, and this new definition left me feeling queasy.

 I love gory horror flicks, but when a nurse tells you, "I want you to look at your face here so you don't have to worry.  This is what it is supposed to look like..." brace yourself. I glanced in the mirror, and then in total shock turned away in disgust. I took one more peek then demanded they take the mirror away. At the end of my nose was a hole the size of a dime. Like someone took an over-sized hole punch to my face.

"You let people go home with gaping holes in their bodies?" 

"All the time." Yikes. I told Chef, as we got into the car to go home, that I could not bear to look at my mangled face. He was going to have to change the bandages on my zombie nose. He tried to make me feel better by talking about all the fabulous hats I am now going to start collecting.

This brush with mortality has made me realize something. I am getting old. There is no more pussy footing around my health now that I am in my 30's. This was my first major health crisis as an adult, and I gotta do something to keep this from snowballing into a mid-life avalanche. 


Tuesday, April 3, 2012


It was the Sprout's birthday on St. Patty's day, and we threw her a picnic party at a playground near the Ortega River.  I had day dreams of setting up the food, spreading out blankets and lounging for hours by the river, watching the sunset and our little ones frolic about. That Saturday, as I gently placed the 36th cupcake at the top of the stand on the food table, thunder pounded in applause from violet clouds.  We moved the entire picnic under a tiny pavilion, ate quickly and let the kids play a bit in the slight drizzle, before loading up and moving out.

It was no picnic.  I got to thinking about picnics, and with Spring here it seemed like a good topic to explore.  Surprisingly, what I found was disturbing.

What is the etymology of the word picnic? I went online to look it up and the first entry was something on  Weird right?  Picnic on Snopes?  I read the entry...which disproved a rumor that the word "picnic" originated as word describing an outdoor meal attended by white folks, where a black man was chosen at random and hung for the gathering's entertainment. You can read more about it here.

Who started this urban legend, transforming the lovely word picnic into something brutal and violent? The fact that this false definition for the word "picnic" even exists in our language says a lot. So does the story of the murder of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL.  What does it say about American society where an adult can shoot an unarmed teenage boy, on his way to a store to buy some candy, without any arrest or investigation? Really think it about it, because as his story goes global the rest of the world will be casting its judgement. This is our society, our laws, our people, our culture.  We have to own this reality, before we can change it.

As for the word actually comes from the French word, piquenique, which seems to have originated in the 17th century to describe a potluck style feast.  This little truth put my mind at ease, because if there had been a more sinister meaning it would have ruined picnics for me forever. Picnics are a thing of unity and diversity where people come together and share food in plein air.  Last Saturday, Chef and I are attended a guerrilla picnic, or pop-up picnic, as a fundraiser for a community garden in our neighborhood, Riverside.  It was a picnic like none we have ever attended, and I will be sure to share with you the details.

It is picnic season...sit, eat, drink, and linger over some meaningful conversation in the sunshine.  Enjoy the Spring bloom before the summer blaze sets in.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Day of Infamy

3/6/12 - I am not sure how the planets were aligned this Tuesday, but here in Jacksonville, Florida it is was a day of infamy on many levels.

Let's begin with the micro: The Sprout kept me up most of the night, so I began the day in a state of confused exhaustion. In this compromised mental capacity I made the mistake of trying to scramble some eggs for my children to eat for breakfast. It was 7:00 am.  I gently placed three eggs on the counter and turned to the garbage can to crack the first against the kitchen counter.  I knocked it out of my hand onto the kitchen floor.  In my haste to clean it up, I bumped our butcher block which caused one of the other eggs to fall to the floor with a splat. 

I cussed.  Pulled myself together and cracked the other one into the bowl, and threw away it's shell.  The remaining egg, I cracked into the garbage can and tossed its shells into the yolk bowl.  If I was a cartoon a geyser of steam would have blown through my ears.  Then Chef walks in.  I tell him to go get the kids' shoes out of my car.  He returns with the shoes and says "Your car was broken into last night...they took the GPS."

The thief stole the GPS, the I-touch, and a book with a decade of CDs in it.  I had an 8 am appointment, and it was 7:40. I quickly printed directions off the internet to the Duval County School System building. I gathered myself and set forth in my violated vehicle.  Half-way there I realized that the last 3 direction bullets were missing from the list.  I turned to my "smart phone" which told me to get on another entirely different route.  I made it, barely.

But this is terribly minor considering what else happened that day.

The macro day of infamy: Around happy hour, I was on a neighborhood playground chatting it up with a fellow madre when she said, "Can you believe that shooting today at Episcopal?" Episcopal High School is one of the best private high schools in Jacksonville.  It is where two of my four paternal cousins went to secondary school.  Many friends locally attended there as well. Dale Regan, the high school's headmistress, a beloved educator of 30 years, was murdered by a 28 year old Spanish teacher whose employment had been terminated.  At around 1:30, he walked onto campus with a guitar case containing an assault rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition.  He found her in her office and shot her ten times, then committed suicide.

The following evening, I was standing in a buffet line at a function at our synagogue.  I overheard a young teenager tell his father "I heard the shot."  I watched the father try to navigate the delicate conversation in such a public place, and I thought to myself as I scooped pasta onto my plate,
"Please don't ever let my child speak those words to me."

How does a school recover after a tragedy like this?  How do parents assure their kids this could never happen again, now that it has happened once?  What is to stop it from happening again? 

How many innocent people have to die before we accept that there are far too many mentally ill people that own guns in this country? 

I mean really.  Is there a number that will be the breaking point?

Chef is a licensed gun owner, but if someone where to come to our babies' school and commit murder, or mass murder there is not a damn thing he would be able to do to protect our children.  He would be at work, his guns stowed under lock and key at home.

Do guns make us safer?  

Not so sure.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Legends of the Food

Two weeks ago I attended a clandestine meal...guerrilla dining at its finest.  Supper clubs, closed door restaurants...if you are not familiar with this culinary movement let me enlighten you.

This was the situation for attendees:  The guests receive an invitation to a dinner.  There is a day and time, but no location listed.  The cuisine is unknown.  The day of the event guests receive a note with the location.  They arrive and the meal begins.  An underground feast.

Fifty or so people, mostly strangers, all seated at one long table nestled between giant steel vats draped in twinkle lights set in a brewery near the train tracks. Twice during the meal I watched a train roar by over the shoulder of the person sitting across me.  The effect was marvelous.

Underground culinary movements are springing up all over the world in infinite variations.  Its philosophical roots reminiscent of the French Situationist Movement...a social movement of Europe during the 60's that revolved around creating spontaneous situations within the context of everyday life.  Every moment is infinitely different from the next, no matter how mundane. To keep reality fresh, spontaneity reminds us that existence is exceptional.

This subversive spread did just that.  I present the menu:

Roasted marrow bone, Braised oxtail marmalade, brioche toasts
wine: 2001 Campo Viejo Grand Reserva / beer: The Factor Scotch Ale
music: Mussorgsky Bydlo (The Ox) from Pictures at an Exhibition

Strauss lamb sweetbreads, Romesco, Tuscan Kale
 wine: 2007 Bodegas Sierra Cantabria Reserva "Unica" Rioja / beer:Triad Belgian Tripel
music:  Hugh Maskela, Grazing in the Grass

Roasted saddle of rabbit stuffed with rabbit confit and prunes, Sformato, natural jus.
wine:  2000 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Rosado
music:  O'Conner, The Road to Appalachia

Veal braised in Intuition Ale Works Quiet Storm Belgian Quad,
Potato puree, Piquillo pepper, Marcona Almonds
wine:  2005 Bodegas Dinastia Vivanco Reserva / beer: Quiet Storm Belgian Quad
music: The Pixies, Where is My Mind?

"Soup & Sandwich" a la Indochine. Pho, Banh mi, Assorted preparations of wild boar
wine: 2005 Maetierra Dominum Quatro Pagos "QP" / beer:  Dubbel Helix Belgian Dubbel
music: Theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Cheese Course...Cabrales, Aged Gouda, Epoisses, Manchego, Brillat Savarin

That is right people.  Exquisite Spanish wine and craft beer paired with food from this region's top chefs and a specific musical composition individual to each course that was performed the brilliant violinist Philip Pan, Concertmaster of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.

 No small potatoes here. No small potatoes.

Yes, I said Spanish wine and craft beer in glorious harmony.  Look at them...Vibrant Rioja and Intuition Ale. Such an unlikely pair, but totally perfect together.

We all eat.  We all dine out, sometimes even on a whim.  There is nothing unexpected about that, nothing original.  It is what people do.   To eat is a common goal of all humans, to eat is to live.  But when people get together in an effort to truly transform one of life's most simple acts and share that transformation with others for one brief is not just an exceptional experience, but a communal gift.  Spontaneous art.

Jacksonville, bless her heart, may be The River City, but in many ways she is a backwaters kind of gal. It is renegade events like this that will mark her as The Bold New City of the South.  Put your feelers out, and maybe you will stumble upon one in your region. Friends, who live in my neck of the woods go here for a taste of creative subversion to open the mind and the palette.

Wake up that brain and belly.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Waffa and Mike's

The first few weeks of the New Year have been nuts.  Nuts as in crazy.  Nuts as in hard, crunchy. Nuts as in fruitful.  I began grad school, helped install a garden at Lil' Bit's preschool and got the six classes started on spring crops, and of course the hubbub of everyday life. 

Speaking of the mundane, moving to a new city one must always search out a trustworthy mechanic.  I began my search inquiring from friends, but no recommendation was to be had.  My parents happened to be in town and my mom said "Check out the Car Talk Radio Show website.  They have a list."

So I did and the first name on the list A & A Auto Diagnostic Repair on N. Main seemed to have the best reviews so I gave them a call and they told me they could see me in 30 minutes.  I set forth to Springfield, an up and coming area of Jacksonville to get an oil change and two light bulbs replaced.  Minor issues, make the best starting point to get a feel for a new mechanic.

I found the place, and the owner Mike was warm and friendly. I handed him my keys.  He pointed to a glass door and told me that there was a couch in the office where I could wait if I liked.  Now I have been to many a mechanic, but this office was special.  The couch he spoke of had one beige floral pillow that was propped up cockamamie on the arm, while the other two were firmly in place.  The other customer, a man was standing next to the couch texting.  I sat down and felt a need to straighten the pillow, but then I took a look around and noticed that the office waiting room was all jacked up with stuff.  My mechanic was a hoarder.

He walked in and told me it would be about 30 minutes, and seeing me on the couch he offered "I own the restaurant next door, you are welcome to wait over there.  I will tell them to take care of you." I had almost passed the garage upon arrival because I was so distracted by the sign for the restaurant: Waffa and Mike's painted in yellow letters on the giant red cinder-block walls of the building that housed both businesses. 

I took him up on it and went next door.  Waffa and Mike's Cafe is clean with high ceilings and has the warm smell falafel in the fryer.  It was ten a.m and I had a lunch date so I went for 3 for $1 baklava and coffee.  I sat down in a large booth with a book and began to read.  This cafe at the mechanic's was such a wonderful turn of events, and a brilliant concept mind you.

The baklava was honey sweet and the coffee strong.  A man walked in and ordered a wrap of some sort that smelled incredible. Before I knew it an hour passed by. I thought Is there something wrong with my car?  Maybe I should go see what is taking so long?   I went back to the office and the car was ready and when Mike handed me the bill I was thrilled.  An oil change for less than $30 with baklava.  Yes. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Happy Year

I took this picture months ago just for today.  It is a black eyed pea from our garden at 29 South.  It was maybe September when I plucked this pod and weeks later when it had dried I  

This is a beautiful plant.

Even the word legume has a certain elegance to it don't you think?  A plant with edible seeds.  Each seed harboring its own individual potential to grow into a plant, comfortably nestled in a pod with its kin.  That is the thing...peas in a pod, when faced with the future, they are in it together. 

As a species we all have different resolves, but one thing is for all species on earth when it comes to our survival,  our future, whether we like it or not we are in it together.

Happy New Year!
Luck in Life and Love.