My cat picked out my sushi

August 21, 2014

Mackerel and sea bream cat food

Last Sunday, the Open Streets folks did one near my neighborhood. Open Streets is when a stretch of a road is closed to cars for a day and non-motorized folks get to go nuts on it. I’d been aware of previous events but hadn’t made it to one, so I was excited that I’d have to put forth minimum effort to attend this one.

But to be perfectly honest, the day was one of extreme relative humidity—something gross, like, the dew point was 69F and the air temperature was 71F (21C/22C). I had texted my bikey friend, Jon, at noon to inquire whether he would be toodling over, then stuck my big toe out the front door and immediately decided I wasn’t going out in that, and settled in to watch some Grand Hotel.* After the second episode I decided I at least needed to take a shower because, even inside in air conditioning, I was feeling sticky and yucky. I stood up, checked my phone, and realized that Jon had replied in the affirmative almost right away. I texted him, thinking I’d be lucky if he was still out. I was very lucky because not only was he still out but he was at my end of the two mile stretch of the open street.

Well, fine. I hated the thought of going out in that weather, yet knew I’d regret it if I didn’t finally check out such a convenient Open Streets, and knew I’d appreciate a shower more after I returned home. I met him in the beer garden in the parking lot of my local liquor store.

Dear Open Streets,
I ride my bike back and forth to work every day across two vectors of downtown, Victor. I thought suburban SUV-driving commuters who can’t think outside the car were the bane of my existence. Not so. In that one tiny ride during your event, one-half mile to a neighborhood business I often bike to anyway, I realized that, really, pedestrianing parents with cherubic children are far, far worse. No cars on the street? No motors to listen for to give us audio cues as to how to behave in common space? No problem. No trajectory is too weavy for us to wobble along. I’m riding a bicycle? I might as well be a semi-truck hurtling toward your Croc-shod toddler. You sneer in my general direction.

Ugh.

Beer and band gardenIn hindsight I’m very glad that, when I found Jon and said that I wouldn’t mind riding to the other end and back, he informed me that he had already done so twice and was just going to order another beer. Here’s to neighborhood brewery Harriet Brewing’s Woden Weizen!

Being the humid, unsettled weather it was, the sky soon unleashed another round of showers. Jon and I gamely stood in the rain because, let’s face it, neither of us is fancy, and it felt good. Unlike previous showers that day, though, this one lasted for more than three-and-a-half minutes. It wasn’t bad for us spectators but unfortunately for the band that was playing, the tent-shelter that was protecting them decided to let loose into the keyboard its load of water. That put a damper on the vibe.

But I digress.

I quipped to Jon that I’d still be willing to ride to the other end but he came up with a far better idea. I’m finally getting to the sushi portion of the story.

Across from the liquor store is a fairly new Thai restaurant which also has a sushi bar. It’s really like two restaurants in one. Jon said, nah, let’s just go to Sober Fish and engage in their happy hour. Okay, twist my arm, Croc-shod toddlers!

Lagunitas IPA and Sober Fish shot glassI was glad when he suggested ordering sushi items rather than Thai noodle stuff (which I do like but I was more in the mood for sushi). I was also glad when I saw Lagunitas IPA on the fairly short beer list. Lagunitas IPA goes well with raw fish things. Then I was horrified when he seemed eager to also order the house shot which consisted of cucumber vodka, ginger something, and something else. In the old days I did enjoy my vodka tonic, and in these new days I mix my Pimm’s with cucumber soda (during the two weeks of Wimbledon). Then I saw that you got to keep the shot glass.** I wasn’t too hard a sell on that, then, either.

The drinks were the easy part. It turned out that I like rolls and Jon likes sashimi. Also, we had never collaborated on a food order before so there was that awkwardness, “what do you like?” “Oh, no, what do YOU like?” I’m finally getting to the cat part of the story.

Jon made a hard sell for mackerel sashimi. I countered with advocating for spicy tuna roll. I like that a lot, and when I eat at a new sushi place it’s sort of my benchmark. Not too sophisticated in the big scheme of things but there you go. We decided we’d order both forms.

There were many sashimi choices. Tuna is my favorite raw fish in general, but I’ll always try anything once. Not that mackerel is so exotic. It’s not. Then I comprehended some of the other choices on the sashimi list and formed my opinion as to what else we should select.

As I said, Jon was a big fan of mackerel. I saw that sea bream was also on the list. So I said yes to the mackerel and suggested the sea bream as well.

Why? This is why.

A while ago I decided to bite the bullet on cost and serve my lovely cats wet food because it’s significantly better for their health than dry food. I like to get them the tuna-based kinds, and the tuna almost always includes some other seafood as an accent. The canned food ain’t cheap so I’ve been determining the best balance between ingredients and cost. Along the way I added a third cat, thereby half-againing the cat food budget, so I could no longer afford to buy the tiny cans of best-quality, tuna-based food and instead have had to figure out what’s next best.

I’ve settled on a couple of brands, one of which is pictured above. The store carries four varieties—shrimp (30¢ more per can), sardine, mackerel, and sea bream. Sea-what? Never heard of it.

Empty platesWe ordered my spicy tuna roll and also a caterpillar roll because Jon likes eel, and I like that sweet sauce that usually accompanies it. For sashimi we ordered the mackerel and, as our second sashimi selection at my behest, the sea bream. Do you see where I’m going with this?

My decision-making process: if it’s good enough for the cats, it’s good enough for me. Let’s go for it!

The mackerel was salty and firm and reminded me of smoked salmon or smoked trout. The sea bream was at the opposite end of the spectrum—tender, mild, and nutty. Jon hadn’t had it either and seemed pleasantly surprised by it.

I am embarrassed to admit that it was Jon and not I who said/thought, “This would make a good blog entry.” By that time, the sea bream and mackerel were long gone and we were down to one gyoza.

 

* If, by chance, you start watching Grand Hotel based on this brief mention, stick with it long enough to realize that Inspector Ayala reminds you exactly and completely of Hercule Poirot, which won’t actually take you that long. You will be richly rewarded in episode 23.

** Until that Sober Fish outing, I didn’t actually possess a shot glass. What I do have is a set of four antique aperitif, shot-sized glasses. But they’re delicate, textured glass. They were my grandparents’, and I’m always terrified that it will take only one gentle yet errant tap on the side of the Mason jar into which I mix my Wimbledon Pimm’s to shatter it to pieces. It was an easy sell to convince me order a shot that would resulting my owning a chunky, heavy-duty, actual shot glass. I guess the shot was okay. It was not much like cucumber or ginger, very sweet, and Ecto-Cooler green. One could get into trouble with them …

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In sort of the same spirit as my recent foray to Himalayan Restaurant, tonight I visited Chai’s Thai Restaurant, which is the restaurant nearest to my home that I have never been to. The goal this time was to order the least expensive thing on the menu. I had two choices, edamame and fried tofu.

I think it’s safe to say that recently I have been on a bent to sample new and weird foods. And when I say weird, I only mean stuff that you won’t find at Applebee’s. I certainly do not mean that I think the various ethnicities that inspire the dishes are weird. On the contrary. It’s very interesting to experience new things and it’s a little bit of an adrenaline rush if you feel a little uncomfortable in the process.

I have had edamame before which is why I ordered the fried tofu. And I have had tofu many times before as well, but not in a form that was fried, or at least not the way I was imagining this would be fried tonight. Now that I think about it, I guess I was making certain assumptions because it was in the Appetizers part of the menu. 

With entree items in the past, the tofu has come in inch-square cubes, browned and obviously at least sauteed, which I suppose is technically, basically, fried. For some reason I subconsciously figured that this fried tofu appetizer would somehow be crispier. 

And it was. It was sliced into quarter-inch thick squares and had obviously bathed in the deep-fat-fryer for a few minutes. It was served with a spicy peanut sauce and a sweet-and-sour type glaze. The tofu itself, of course, was bland, but the sauces were quite tasty indeed. I particularly liked the peanut sauce, probably because it was thicker and stuck to the tofu squares long enough to get to my mouth, versus running off like the sweet-and-sour. 

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It was enough to hold me until my entree arrived—pineapple duck with bok choy and vegetables. I’m sure I’ve had duck at least once in my life but I don’t really remember, so I figured it was closer to something I had never had before than the mahi mahi green curry, which also sounded delicious but the components of which I know I’ve had before. These were the two daily specials. You can see from the menu that they have lots of delicious dishes. 

The pineapple duck was quite spicy and just about right. Unfortunately, the venue was not air conditioned and this was a humid summer’s day, so it didn’t take long for me to start sweating like you do with spicy food. The lighting was also very dim, so these aren’t the greatest photos ever either.

I think maybe we need to have a standing mission to try a new restaurant monthly. This has been enjoyable. 

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Here’s a great way to explore: flip a coin. If it’s heads, go left. If it’s tails, go right. Do this an arbitrary number of times and set off. I did it ten times and walked. My route was RLRRLRLLLR.

I didn’t censor the coin’s choices. My only stipulation was that to make a turn, both left and right had to be available. I live in an area where two interstates junct and major roads intersect, so sometimes there’s only one way to go, as happened in between flips 4 and 5.

So here then is my walk. Each photo is at the corner looking in the new direction. It is a happy coincidence minus preplanning that my last turn set me in the direction of one of my favorite bars which was only a couple blocks further. What could I do but go have a beer (a delicious Bell’s Oberon)?

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July 31, 2010

Local night out

August 4, 2010

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It might be National Night Out, but I just had a little Kelly’s night out. Once again, I’d like to thank Tweak Today for giving me the boot in the seat that I needed to just do something. This evening that something was going to a restaurant I’d never been to and trying something I’ve never had.

Himalayan Restaurant is in my home neighborhood and was recommended separately by two of my neighbors. So when this assignment came up, I knew that’s where I was headed. It’s in an unassuming little building on the southeast corner of Franklin Avenue and 24th Avenue South, and the interior is typical of such restaurants.

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A moment of quick scrutiny revealed that there were two Indian beers on the menu. I ordered the Kingfisher Lager because the other one came in a 22 ounce serving and I didn’t think I wanted that much. Silly me.

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I had perused the menu online beforehand and pretty much knew what I’d get. I ordered the Kathmandu momo (steamed yak dumplings) to start. I was encouraged when my server—identified as Clerk 1 on my bill, shame on me for not looking for a nametag, I’ll call her Clara because I like alliteration—immediately piped up that they were her favorite.

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For my entree I ordered the Khasi ko Masu (goat curry). I’ve had goat before, I think, at the Indian buffet where I sometimes go for lunch. I’m not actually sure. It gets dished up for you and I’m never quite clear which tag goes with which item; I just tell them to give me a variety. Again I was reassured when Clara said, as she served it, “My mom likes this. She loves to suck the meat off the bones. She’s Russian.”

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I don’t eat out often enough to pretend to know whether what I ate was an outstanding example of Nepalese food and I’m not very critical anyway. What I do know is that Clara was delightful, the food was served steaming hot, the naan was the best I’ve had, and I have leftovers for another complete meal. The important thing for me is that I took myself out to a new restaurant, and it was a bonus that it was a place where I felt completely comfortable as a solo diner.

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It would be easy to answer the question ???what do you use every day???? with the obvious answer of ???eyeglasses??? or ???computer??? or ???toilet.??? But a more un-obvious answer is this crosswalk at Cedar Avenue and what would be 5th Street if 5th Street went all the way through. And on either side of the crossing are bars that represent the diversity of the neighborhood.

You will recall from my post a couple of days ago I mentioned that the majority in the neighborhood is African immigrants. There are also some southeast Asians. But in this case by diversity, I???m talking about the white Americans in the area, which borders two different university campuses. We whites range from 20-something college students to aging nuts-and-love hippies. I fall in the middle of that spectrum. I spent many years in college but I am no longer 20-something or even close to it, and neither my parents nor I were ever hippies, though I do remember making daisy crowns as a child.

In the morning when I use the crosswalk, I get a minute or two to study the hippy and drunk neighborhood institution, Palmer???s Bar. Palmer???s is referred to, at times even lovingly, as a dive. I???ve never actually been inside. When I pass it in the morning on my way to work, I do occasionally see people making a beeline for the door. Whether they are employees or patrons, I couldn???t say, other than to note that I never seem to same people twice. Other than that one woman. But she did not appear to be on her way to work.

In the afternoon, I pass by Nomad World Pub. This place I have spent a few dollars in. They have a good beer list and, as I now recall, this is where I first saw Romantica, as they were the band-in-residence for a few Thursdays a couple of summers ago. This is where the college kids hang out and play bocci ball. This is the bar that hired in a giant screen tv to their parking lot for the important (read: USA and finals) World Cup matches. On summer nights when I have my windows open, I am quite able to hear the live music, because they leave their back door open. Also, they use to have an animated rabbit graphic on their web page. Unlike Palmer???s, I often see the same man hanging around the Nomad and I take him to be the owner.

Recently, the crosswalk was upgraded. It always had the lights and the button to trigger the right-of-way. But now it speaks. It says, ???Wait ??? ??? ??? wait ??? ??? ??? wait ??? ??? ?????? When you push the button for the walk light???which seems like it takes FOREVER to change???it then says in a reassuring male voice, ???Cedar Avenue. Walk light is on to cross . . . . . Cedar Avenue. Walk light is on to cross . . . . . ?????

Unless it is before 8:30am when traffic is heavier, I don???t usually push the button, I just jaywalk, or jaybike as it were. In the afternoon I???m on the side of the road I need, so I don???t use the right-of way (the Nomad-looking photo of the crossing was staged, I confess), though I do use the wheelchair ramp to the sidewalk, being on wheels myself. About?? half the time I have to excuse a pedestrian out of my way.

Yep, you never knew a crosswalk could be so interesting, did you?