Friday, June 30, 2006

Crumpet camps Mt St Helens

Baby Crumpet had her first ever camping experience - at the Seaquest State Park at the foot of Mount St Helens. Easy 2 hour drive from Seattle. We left after work on Friday. Got there with plenty of time to set up the tent, build a fire & cook (well, burn) a couple of sausages.

We spent Sat hiking (see previous post) - dinner was grilled steak & beer. Yum.

We had nw air mattresses from REI and they performed like a charm, I have never slept this well camping. Crumpet did well too especially it got really, really cold in the middle of the night. She was wrapped in 3 layers, hat & socks on her hands (we didn't have baby gloves). This girl is a trooper - I think she is ready for anything.

Crumpet hikes Mount St Helens

Team Mia went hiking again - this time Mount St Helens. Yes, the active volcano that blew up in 1981 and has been spewing ash & lava this past year.

It's only about a 2 hour drive from Seattle to the visitot's center, then another 40 miles up to the 2 ranger stations on ridges. Both stations were re-built after being destroyed during the last eruption. The information on display were excellent & interesting, including samples of hollowed out trees with the top side either burnt off or shredded by a storm of ''rocks & boulder'' up to 800 miles per hour. A wall panel of survivor stories as well as final radio transmissions of those who didn' make it was riveting. Given this is the Pacific Northwest naturally you can get a latte on top of the mountain.

We took a relatively easy hike, although there were some narrow spots with a vertical drop a la Lord of the Rings. This was the first time we used the baby back pack (courtesy of Jim, Jenni & Nathan). The extra 18 lbs were OK at first, but after a few miles, well, my back started to kill. Baby Crumpet handled the hike with her usual aplomb by, as usual, falling asleep.

Crumpet meets Big Dog

Mcquinn's house. Baby Crumpet meets Dundee, a golden weighing over 95 lbs. Adults were nervous but Crumpet simply reached out to pet (grab?) the dog & giggled when the dog licked her.

Glad to see Crumpet loves animals & vice versa!

Music - gotta check out Richard Cheese' version of The Girl is Mine - duet with Stephen Hawkins. Seriously.

Dinner - been experimenting with lots of different dishes. Yesterday tried braising beef short ribs.

I used free-range short ribs from Wholefood. Seared on all sides w/t olive oil, about 2 minutes each. Then added bacon, french beans, sweet onion, garlic & carrots. Joe's stuff, rosemary, bay leaf, oregano, sage & kosher salt. A bit chicken stock & red wine. Then simply cook at low heat forever (about 5 hours in our case). I added black pepper & chestnuts right before serving - you can also cut in some fresh shallots for extra kick. Makes an excellent leftover too.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Freedom loving bear

from the Associated Press - I'd escape if they try to neuter me.

GOLDEN, British Columbia -- A freedom-loving grizzly bear named Boo smashed a heavy steel door and barreled through two electric fences to escape a second time from a resort near this southcentral British Columbia town.

"It's unbelievable," Dalzell said. "We thought there was no way, it was absolutely impossible, but he found a way. It was basically like breaking out of Fort Knox."

He said the bear bashed a nearly 400-pound steel door off its four bolts, destroyed an electrical box while tearing through two electric fences and scrambled over a 12-foot fence anchored with two feet of steel below ground.

Resort staff had planned to neuter Boo, but he got away first. Once he's located, authorities will decide whether to try to recapture him again, Dalzell said.

"The poor guy has now tasted freedom and he is going to be more motivated to keep getting out," she said. "There is a side of me that's saying, `Way to go Boo,' but there is another side of me that's really worried about this bear being in the wild near humans."

Boo's first escape was blamed on hormones, June being the prime mating season for grizzlies, but Henderson said the second escape might indicate the bear no longer would tolerate confinement

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Back to New Orleans part two: let the good times roll

Above: Jamil Sharee at the Maison Bourbon; Sock Monkey at Cafe du Monde

4 days on Bourbon Street and we only saw one woman flashing her boob.

The businesses are definitely (defiantly?) open but customers are few & far between. Music flows out from bars & clubs all over the city. On the street a state of drunkeness were just a hurricane (Katrina special) or jello shot away. Yet the streets were mostly empty. Maybe librarians are not quite the party animals they rumored to be.

Michael Martens visits his friend who is a bartender at a 24-hour joint. He works the midnight to 8am shift. He explains: mid-night to two you have the college crowd, then the off-duty cops show, followed by the junkies until about 7am, then the serious drunk folks. The cops by far create the most trouble.

In addition to missing customers the other challenge local hospitality industry faces is a major shortage of labor. Most chose to enter the far more lucrative construction jobs, others can't afford to move back in. Every single place had Help Wanted sign up. Most were operating on part-time basis or only open half the dining room 'cause they are short staffed. I felt like I was in Paris all over again.

I've been to NO more than a dozen times so my first instinct is to seek out all my favorite places. Starting with Cafe du Monde, the stupendous simple yet delicious breakfast combination of beignets (fried dough w/t powdered sugar) and chicory laced cafe au lait served by asian waitresses with too much make-up and southern accent. So far so good.

Walk down to Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop and find Johnny Gordon at the piano. Johnny has been playing the piano for more than 50 years. He likes his whiskey. His voice, already challenging, lowers & become increasingly incomprehensible as the night wears on. Johnny belts out his standards - It's a Wonderful World, House of the Rising Sun, My Funny Valentine. A customer request a song that came out after 1969, never heard it, replied Johnny. Good, nothin' has changed.

Maison Bourbon, one of the last remaining pure jazz club left on Bourbon Street (motto: dedicatd to the preservation of jazz - a clever reference to the famous but over-rated Preservation Hall club). Jamil Sharef is on trumpet tonight with a 4-piece, including a drummer straight out of the Buena Vista Social Club. At lest 80 years old, fedora hat, neatly pressed suit, vest (it's 95 degrees & humid, mind you). Specs. Light touch all around, an amused smile on his lips as he looks down at us. Music was brilliant. The crowd goes wild. Jamil suggests people buy his CD 'cause ''they would sound good playing inside a library''. Let the good times roll.

Dinner time, couldn't get into NOLA so we go to Emerils. Yes, THAT guy's restaurant. Always admired his cooking if not his style, the menu was inventive, fun & most importantly, mouth watering delicious. I had an arugula salad with spanish ham, two different melons & a sorbet made from pecorino cheese. Entre was rack of lamb with mustard & rosemary crust on a bed of spinach. Simple yet different. After everyone claims to be stuffed and can not possibly eat any dessert, naturally we order 6 of them. The key lime pie was fluffy & just sweet enough. Banana cream pie melted in your mouth. Chocolate souffle was very serious business.

I walk down to the French Market to pick up file (for gumbo), the praline connection for Gracie, Frank's grocery for Mufflettas, the Gumbo Shop for, er, gumbo. Seeing Kevin at the New Orleans School of Cooking was like seeing a brother lost during the war. I buy my Joe's stuff, picking up an extra one for John Allen. I'm usually a stoic guy but this was all too much. The city I love so much took a beating but it has come back stronger than ever. Folks, get your ass to New Orleans, the nice folks down there are waitin' for you.

New Orleans is Back part one - the city & the aftermath

Pictured above - fixing the roof in the French Quarter; a doll in the window

I was in New Orleans last week as an attendee at a library convention - the first major event to be held in NO since Katrina. Here is what I saw.

''WE ARE JAZZED YOU ARE HERE'' said a banner as you exit the Louis Armstrong Int'l Airport. A nice young man from the convention bureau smiles shyly to greet each person but seems unsure what to do really. That was probably his 2nd day on the job. On the way into the city everyone looks outside the window anxiously - for what? broken houses? Brownie? Everything looks normal in fact until you realize most street lights don't work.

''WE ARE JAZZED YOU ARE HERE'' read the banner in my hotel lobby and later, the entrance to the convention center. I read earlier the city had organized a massive volunteer project two days earlier to clean & get the city ready for 15,000 librarians coming to town. Why volunteers? Couldn't $200 billion in aid pay some workers?

There are police EVERYWHERE, also state troopers in nice blue hats & national guard in their humvees. Everyone is jovial, it's nice to be on duty in New Orleans rather than whatever bumpkin town they came from. You can walk more than 2 steps without bumping into the law. 4 days and the only encouter we saw was a man thrown out of the Harrah's Casino.

''WELCOME ALA TO NEW ORLEANS'' read the poster on virtually every business, including Ricks Cabaret, a strip club. Post-Katrina merchandise are everywhere. Most popular were t-shirts - among my favorites:
- FEMA: Fix Everything My Ass
- Katrina Beach: Life Guard not on duty
- Katrina gave me a blowjob I'll never forget
- FEMA Evacuation plan: run motherfucker run

Speaking to a cab driver, who uses words like ''fugedaboutit'' and is clearly from New Jersey. He has a construction job manual on his front seat. He tells no one can afford to live in the city because the landlords have jacked up prices so they can rent to people with the $1,200/month federal rental assistance checks. We hear other stories from locals.

Speaking to a shopkeeper who sell beautifully handcrafted stationary (my fav - cards that say - merci, y'all). She tells me business is not only down but the hotels have no reservations for the summer. Why would anyone come to New Orleans during hurricane season she asks rhetorically. She said she saw people getting raped & the Navy Seals coming in & killing the thugs. She tells me if she were a tourist she would never come back to New Orleans herself.

Speaking to a sandwich shop owner. No business, she tells me, but so far it's been good this week, thanks to the library convention.

You can't see much damage in French Quarter or the Central Business District, but I hear stories from the outside. A publisher (Stephe Pagel from Meisha Merlin) drove in from Georgia and tells me there are debris everywhere, including one stretch of 20 - 30 cars and boats (boats?) dumped in the middle of the highway. Back in the city it's mostly broken glass, torn roof & omnimously, bullet holes.

DESPITE all that emotions were running high. The city is definitely on its way back. The city need people to visit, to bring life there.

(continued on food & entertainment)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Baby Crumpet is 5 months old!

Baby Crumpet turned 5 months old yesterday. We celebrated by giving her a bath and attempted to feed her super delicious rice cereal, which she promptly dribbled down her chin (blearh, I wouldn't eat that gruel)

Collins & his mom stopped by - she is visiting from the Bay Area. We enjoyed some nice Pike Place Market strawberries and Australian port. My attempt to sear & roast chicken thigh were less successful but the French beans turned out good.

Seattle Rabbit problem

This is not an Onions headline

Monday, June 19, 2006

Hiking in Baker

Team Crumpet went for our first hike in Mount Baker down the easy Horseshoe Bend Trail - basically a relatively flat trail that follows the Nooksack River covered with thick growth. Crumpet reacted to the wilderness by promptly falling asleep & drooled all over dad.

Later we visited Nooksack Falls - where years ago in his inexperienced youth Da Mao once climbed on top of. Every year at least one person fall to their death because they insist on climbing beyond the wire fence. Once again Baby Crumpet showed her supreme cool by drooling.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

anatomy of a sneeze

anatomy of a sneeze captured on camera

I was away in Toronto so Big A took Baby Crumpet to the movies to see X3. Apparently after some early fussiness during previews (no doubt 'cause it sucks), Baby Crumpet settled down & watched the movie in its entirely (not asleep, just watching). Who says 4 month is too young to learn about children of the atom?


Team Mia couldn't wait for the official start of Summer so we staged a BBQ on June 1st. Over 40 of our friends & neighbors showed up - including at one point 7 humans under 3. The Age of Suburbia has arrived.

From the moment people arrived we never saw Baby Crumpet again as she was passed from lap to lap like one of those fluffy dogs on TV. This gave us a chance to cook, drink, chat & watch in awe as Nathan added yet more members to his fan club by socializing, asking how everyone's day was going and complimenting the various ladies' jewelry (he is three, three!)

On the menu were the aforementioned homemade brats, homemade burgers with papaya sauce, roasted garlic and lime; chicken thighs marinated in chimicchurri, ears of corn, asparagus and sweet potatoes. Additional food included blue potato salad from Jenni, pound cake from Desiree, pasta salad from Jenna and strawberries from Leah. We hope to have another one of these soon as I want to test out my herb stuffed pork loin recipe.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Magical Feet

Oh Yes

Baby Crumpet has discovered her ''Magical Feet''

Leya & Ewan

Crumpet laughing with (at?) Leya

Leya & Ewan agreed to baby-sit Crumpet so Team Mia can go see Les Miserables.

Ha - the fools!

Sensing weakness in the enemie, Crumpet decided to put them through the hazing ritual and refused to go to bed for hours. By the time we got home Leya & Ewan looked like they had fought an entire gang + a pack of dogs with only sprouts and lettuce - it was a rout.

You wouldn't know looking at this picture....

Making Bratwurst

Do not try this at home.

Lacking anything intelligent to do, Don & I decided to make bratwurst.

We prefer to blame it on faulty equipments, surely our incompetence and incomprehension of sausage making 101 had nothing to do with it.

We had problem getting the mear grinded (ended up usng Cuisinart). Had even more trouble getting the meat into casings (flow & air bubble issues, then there are the frequent burstings). Good news is we took frequent breaks to enjoy an '86 Pauliac Grand Cru, the charcuterie we brought back from Granville Market and Carol's delicious pot roast. Brats turned out pretty good too, after 8 hours or so of hard labor.

You start with meat, we used beef top round & pork shoulders. Semi-frozen so it's easier to cut into small chunks then fed into grinder (or Cuisinart). Then mix in spices (we used pepper, salt, garlic, ginger, mace, sage, rosemary, cream & dextrose). Then you freeze it for another hour or so to harden (soft meat gets smushy and difficult to push through the grinder).

Then you feed it through the grinder into the casing (sheep stomach), using a pin to puncture holes for air bubbles. Use any twine or string to tie into links. Voila - you have a bratwurst.

To cook simmer in beer on stove top for 20 minutes then finish on the grill at medium (350 - 450) for 3 - 6 minutes until nicely browned. Careful to not break the skin so the juices stay in. Serve with mustard, onions & krauts and do the polka.

Friday, June 02, 2006


I think we are in trouble.....

Crumpet, eh?

pictured above - Darth Bear; Crumpet at Granville Island; Mika Yoshimura

Team Mia ventured to Vancouver BC for the weekend, Crumpet's first ever international trip. Bordre patrol at the Sumas crossing was incredibly blase & weren't even impressed by this 4 months old with a passport. Sheesh....

Met up for dinner with Mika at a fantastic Japanese hibachi restaurant that specialize in Tsubune (ground meat on a stick grilled at 1000 degrees). We ate 28 sticks. No joke.

Our hotel was right off Robson (Mika, who really runs Vancouver, got us a suite on the 30th floor overlooking the bay at 1/2 price) so we spend a lot of time walking up & down and eating our way through it - be it breakfast crepes or watermelon gelato. Naturally made the prilgrimage to Chinatown and had excellent dim sum at Jade Dynasty.

Our favorite place was Granville Market which Gracie told us about. It's a public market located on Granville Island just south of downtown. Similar to the markets in Seattle and Phillydelphia with lots of near local made food products such as garlic nectar (garlic, lime & honey). We gorged ourselves with corn chowder pies, lemon cream canolis, bubble tea, pirogies and lamb pies. Found a fantastic butcher that cure their own meat and we purchased elk saucisson, wild boar & goose porciutto, pork & fennel sausage and phesant terrine. Another place made their own sauce and I purchased chimmichurri, a spicy apricot marinade and a chipolte/saffron butter. Felt good lying at the border (meat & produce? no sir, didn't buy any)