Sunday, February 28, 2010

Giuseppe's Disappoints This Time

Mrs Elliott and I went to Giuseppe's on Saturday night for dinner. I've had a couple of good experiences there (Mrs Elliott's have been so-so) and we figured we'd give the place another punt.

The place was full when we got there. Folks were waiting for tables, but we had reservations. So while the Prairie Rockets (guitar, mandolin, banjo) were tuning up, we were quickly seated at one of the nice tables under the windows.

We started with bread, good bread, warm bread. Herbed with rosemary. I tried a schmear of butter on my first bite but not tasting anything buttery, I moved on to the olive oil, which was completely tasteless. A taste-free zone. One expects good fresh virgin olive oil to have flavor, freshness, character. This was the opposite of that. It might as well have been canola oil. Add a star for the bread, take it away for the accompaniments.

Their soup o' the evening was a tomato soup seasoned with gorgonzola. If I could make a tomato soup that good, I'd be pretty proud. One star.

My reader will know that I have previously noted here that the kitchen knows how to coax a good Caprese salad even out of winter tomatoes, and their salad-fu remained strong that night. Another star.

But the eggplant piccata entrée was ... just terrible.

Anyone who does much cooking with eggplant know that it's an oil sponge, and that care must be taken when sautéing eggplant so it does not become saturated with oil.

Care was not taken.

Picture an O-cello kitchen sponge soaked in canola oil, then dipped and sautéed in something only hinting at lemons and herbs.

It was dreadful. Take away another star.

With the eggplant came a side of pasta, linguine noodles perhaps? They may have been seasoned with something but since they also were under-seasoned it's unclear just what the intention was.

And another star falls from the firmament.

When Mrs Elliott told the hostess that she had found the eggplant tasteless and oily, the hostess became defensive, saying that picatta is meant to be mild.

But the issue wasn't mildness, it was the massive amount of oil saturating the flesh of the eggplant.

How they handled the situation loses them a globular cluster of stars.

We both had heartburn that night. I hit the Tums bottle pretty hard before going to bed. Mrs Elliott said this morning that she could of used one or two in the middle of the night, too.

This is a damn pity. It would be nice if downtown Bend boasted a good Italian restaurant. Downtown Carlsbad, where we hail from, had at least four Italian restaurants. While none of them had Giuseppe's intimate ambiance, they could any one of them kick Giuseppe's butt in the cooking department. Hell, even Carlsbad's eight or more Mexican and solitary Chinese restaurants could cook a better eggplant picatta than Giuseppe.

Not far from our house is Trattoria Sbandati. We've not eaten there yet, but if it is as good as I've heard then it will become our default place for Eye-tie food.

What else is there? The Olive Garden? Dear God. No . . . no, not that!
"Welcome to Buca de Fagghecini for the authentico experience Italiano. My name is Roma. Can I start you out with some lotsa pasta macaroni minis?"
In Giuseppe's dining room hangs Aldo Luongo's painting, "Perfecto".

The food, alas, was far from perfect.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Example of Bad Taste No Longer An Ongoing Embarassment.

It was with no little pleasure that I learned that the Hummer is officially dead.

If ever anyone needed proof that Republicans have no taste, all they had to do was point at a Hummer.

RIP you great big ugly symbol of tasteless excess, aggressiveness, and blatant dickishness.

You will not be missed.

To future generations, Hummers will look every bit as laughable as cars with big tail fins from the '50s look to us. Get ready: someday your grandchildren will ask you if people really drove such beastly things.

You read it here first.

It Makes So Much Sense

Dickerson P. Cockley has just become my new favorite name for an author.

John Hancock is still my favorite name for a signer of the U.S. constitution.

Loose Ends Friday

I just got a Burley Flatbed trailer for my bike. The reason is that I'll be hauling my easel and paints (and all the other crap that oil painting needs) from here (northwest side of town) to my art teacher's studio on the southeast side of town for lessons twice a month. And after having packed on 12 lbs of excess weight and seeing my resting heart rate go from 70 bpm to nearly 100 bpm after a summer of injury-induced inactivity, using a bicycle for this trip makes sense.

The nice FedEx man delivered the trailer yesterday. It assembled easily (once I found the right sections in the manual to read), and this morning I hooked it up and used it to haul a parcel downtown to the post office. I make a number of trips to the PO every month to send packages overseas that need a lot of insurance (and complicated customs forms and other fussy paperwork) and firing up my VW Vanagon Westfalia van for every trip seems wasteful. So with this trailer -- as long as there's no ice on the ground and it's not raining -- I'm good to go.

Before you know it, I'll be fit as a fiddle and ready for love.*

Speaking of my van, I finally got a new muffler installed. I bought the replacement muffler online, an OEM type part made by Ernst in Germany, and paid Steve over at Steve's Place ("VW Audi Volvo Specialties") on SE 9th Street to do the install. The old muffler was in pretty bad shape. Looked like lace made of rust. The new muffler is so effective that I had to check to see that the engine was running when I paused at stop lights. Much quieter. Me likee.

The re-decorating of the kitchen
has been coming along nicely. We're still missing the curtains, they should have been here this morning. The install guy was here, the designer was here, the curtains were a no-show.

But the new tiles on the counter and backsplash look great. Mrs Elliott did three pretty little glass tiles at at Glass Symphony which are now inserted into that backsplash and they look peachy.

To break in the kitchen, we had a nice little dinner party over here last Friday while Mrs Elliott's sister and her new boyfriend, New Jerry, were in town. There were delightful guests, interesting conversation, good food (cooked by New Jerry and Mrs Elliott's sister), good wine, and even cigars.

Yeah, cigars. It's been over a decade since I've smoked a cigar, but one of Bend's more disreputable characters brought over a couple and the temptation was too great. Mrs Elliott made it clear that even though my friend's wife lets him smoke his daily cigar (for his health, of course) indoors, she would tolerate no such nonsense here. So thar we were, pinned down by Jap fire . . . no, wait, wrong war story. Thar we were, out on the deck, in the cold, huddled over a kerosene heater, drinking port and smoking stogies. One of the ladies joined us, drawing away at a Rocky Patel Rosado like a seasoned hand.

IN APPLIANCE NEWS, it turns out that the reason the gas range always got weird and blew out the stovetop burners when the oven was in use was due to a homemade stainless steel riser that the house's previous owners had mounted on the stove. The hot air from the rear of the oven vents up the back, and if the back wall is of combustible materials, then a riser must be used. You know -- to prevent the house from burning down. Ordinary drywall, which is what we had before the new ceramic backsplash was installed, is combustible, and because even the shortest riser from the manufacturer is $220, I can see why the previous owners fabricated their own, but it didn't ventilate properly and the stove was glitchy. Two appliance repairmen could not figure out what the problem was. Since tiles are not combustible, I pulled off the DIY riser to see if it made any difference and now the stove works perfectly. And looks better, too.

* From an old song. But there's a free pint of beer for the first person to come up with the name of the
cartoon character on TV who used that line. Think Jay Ward.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Winterfest cold, not wintry.

That was the case on Friday night anyway. It would have been more fun if it had been snowing. Chilly wind without the fun of snow is somehow not charming. Being shouted at by US Cellular Rail Jam sponsors buzztag ("It's all about engaging customers and deepening the relationship. Your partners for Social Media | Branded Merchandise | Collaboration." -- whatever the hell that means) was less so.

As for Saturday, it was household chores. Washed the Westfalia VW camping van, hauled firewood ... stuff like that. We went out later that evening for dinner and a movie. Dinner was the Summit Saloon, movie was Crazy Heart. The former very satisfying, the latter exceptionally good.

IN OTHER NEWS, Mrs Elliott and I had a lovely Valentine's evening at the lodge in Sunriver. We like to make our anniversay, our birthdays, and February 14th special days together.

I'm working up the courage to get back into oil painting. I can't believe how difficult it is for me just to enjoy the process of painting without beating myself up for my lack of skill.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's Gotta Be The Weed

The PNW hops that the local breweries use in their strongly-hopped beers, like IPAs, are every bit as resiny, piney, and fragrant as the local bud.

Coincidence? I think not.

Du Pre and a Bend Afternoon

I just had one of those magic moments. The sun, low in the sky to the west, found the gap between the clouds and the Cascades and flirted* with Bend. For a few minutes, mellow red and yellow brass tones of sunlight warmed the sides of the junipers and the indigo clouds in the southern sky.

Jacqueline Du Pre's recording of Haydn's Cello Concerto No. 2 in D provides the soundtrack for this moment. She wantonly displays more emotion than he, Hr. F. Haydn, may have felt comfortable with.

It works, beautifully.

I'm noticing that as the days lengthen, I feel a lightening in my heart. For me, the two months surrounding the solstice are the hard ones. Though I may have a touch of SAD, I really think I am reacting normally. The plants and animals here seem to feel the same way I do. During the darkest period, the seasonal plants looked shattered and the animals, deeply concerned. I, also shattered and concerned, carry on.

And now, with the longer hours, robins are foraging in cheerful gangs, the juniper outside our bedroom has just dropped a bunch of blushed-blue berries, and the energetic Mrs Elliott says she also feels a change a-comin'.

So what I'm noticing is that Bend's winters push me deeply enough into the dark that I long for summer's heat, while Bend's summers push me far enough into the heat that I long for winter.

I like that. Thems is honest seasons.

* This far from the equator (a land where there are no seasons) the sun is no cocktease. The sun is promising heat. A lot of heat. There will be heat.
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