Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Beautiful Day, Promises to be a Beautiful Evening

Mid-60s yesterday, below freezing today. Brian, the produce guy at Newport Market, ebulliently commented this morning, saying, gotta love this town.

I woke up at 6:30 to five inches of snow. Now the sun is blazing in a clear sky, snowmelt is dripping from the eves, there is a possibility of Mykonos Martinis in my future (more about this later), our friend Michael Hill* has returned to his home at Sweeney Pond (Alsea, Ore.) after his annual migration to winter in Cali's Central Valley; Mrs Elliott and I had a very good meal last night at Bend's Zydeco Kitchen with the always-entertaining Bruce** and Mrs. Miller; I'm drinking my first glass of wine (Chateau de Campuget [$8]); Mrs Elliott is out doing fused-glass things at her shop, The Glass Guild; and we have Chicken Piccata*** on the menu tonight.

We'll cook this together. I always like cooking with Mrs Elliott--she's just swell.

Tonight's fragrance: Grey Flannel by Geofrey Beene.

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* Comment, Michael!

** Bruce routed me at a chess game at The Wine & Beer Shop and Tasting Bar earlier in the evening. He'll pay for this! (Shakes fist at the skies.)

*** Over a pint of ale at Good Life (see: Bend's west side) a couple days ago, a fellow who knows me more from my blog than from Real Life told me that from reading my blog some might think that I are some kind of epicure. To clarify: though I have assorted and diverse pretensions, I am just a boy from the suburbs. I love cooking, I have dined in fine restaurants from Tokyo and Hong Kong, to Paris and Vienna. . . but, let's face it, I'll eat anything. I have a weakness for Jack In The Crack Box tacos, and there isn't a donut alive I've ever turned my nose up at. At which I've ever turned my nose up. Who the hell said you can't end a sentence with a preposition? Meet me outside.

Makes Perfect Sense!

The 10 Most Excellent Reasons to Attack Iran By David Swanson, 21 February, 2012

1. Iran has threatened to fight back if attacked, and that's a war crime. War crimes must be punished.

2. My television says Iran has nukes.  I'm sure it's true this time.  Just like with North Korea.  I'm sure they're next.  We only bomb places that really truly have nukes and are in the Axis of Evil.  Except Iraq, which was different.

3. Iraq didn't go so badly. Considering how lousy its government is, the place is better off with so many people having left or died.  Really, that one couldn't have worked out better if we'd planned it. 

4. When we threaten to cut off Iran's oil, Iran threatens to cut off Iran's oil, which is absolutely intolerable.  What would we do without that oil? And what good is buying it if they want to sell it?

5. Iran was secretly behind 9-11. I read it online. And if it wasn't, that's worse. Iran hasn't attacked another nation in centuries, which means its next attack is guaranteed to be coming very soon.

6. Iranians are religious nuts, unlike Israelis and Americans.  Most Israelis don't want to attack Iran, but the Holy Israeli government does. To oppose that decision would be to sin against God. 

7. Iranians are so stupid that when we murder their scientists they try to hire a car dealer in Texas to hire a drug gang in Mexico to murder a Saudi ambassador in Washington, and then they don't do it -- just to make us look bad for catching them.
 7. b. Oh, and stupid people should be bombed.  They're not civilized. 
8. War is good for the U.S. economy, and the Iranian economy too.  Troops stationed in Iran would buy stuff.  And women who survived the war would have more rights.  Like in Virginia.  We owe Iranians this after that little mishap in 1953.

9. This is the only way to unite the region.  Either we bomb Iran and it swears its eternal love to us.  Or, if necessary, we occupy Iran to liberate it like its neighbors.  Which shouldn't take long.  Look how well Afghanistan is going already.

10. They won't give our drone back.  Enough said.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

'Twas Windy Last Night

Mrs Elliott and I heard on the news last night that it was going to be windy, so we left the sliding glass door to our bedroom open about four inches. It was not predicted to get very cold--in the 40s--and we find that we get the best sleep when the room is in the mid-to-low 50s.

The wind didn't bother either of us at all, though it was pretty impressive at times--I guess. Slept through 99.5% of it.

I find windy nights to be kind of . . . calming? reassuring? in a "I'm snug in my little bed and the wind can blow and blow and it can't hurt me" kind of way?

Even camping in Mellow Yellow, my '84 VW Westfalia pop-top camper van, even in a tiny backpacking tent, I don't find the wind scary.

But I remember a blizzard that caught me and my son out in Round Valley in the Mount San Jacinto State Park (above Palm Springs) in '04.

We rode the tram up through thickening and colder and darker weather, hiked in, and made camp before sundown in nearly whiteout condition. Though I brought a good Primus lantern and stove, two good down-filled sleeping bags, and a sturdy hexamid-type tent, we were still marginally prepared for the cold and wind.

I should have turned back: I remember looking up the mountain that morning from that motel in Palm Springs and saw the top of the mountains obscured with dark gray clouds.

And it got worse: the tram took us through rain, then sleet, then snow, and as we hiked to Round Valley (9,100 ft elevation), the blizzard got heavier and heavier, the day darkened. But there we were. We ranged around to find a sheltered spot to pitch camp, and on the east side of the valley, we found a flat spot to set up the tent on the leeward side of some boulders. Within shouting distance there was another party of backpacker, two adult men and their kids.

Burlier than me, these guys had the strength and foresight to bring sufficient hefty gear (including a propane tent heater) and foodstuffs to weather a freakin' 100-year storm. They kindly gave us a big ol' bag of M&Ms to fuel our Inner Furnaces.

Keeping one's metabolism on "pan fry" is essential in the cold.

So we settled down for a long, cold night. My son was mellower than I, in that trusting way kids have that their parents will sort things out (I think -- I should check in with him to find out what his experience was).

The wind was howling, it sounded -- and I am not exaggerating -- like 747s roaring overhead; the sound of the wind in the trees was powerful. I roused myself frequently in the night to bang the snow off the tent roof so it would not sag so much as to bury us, but many times I found myself awake because the wind was so terribly loud.

It was surely cold. Teens (Fahrenheit), I think.

We obviously lived through the night; the morning dawned clear and sunny, calm and cold; we broke camp and broke trail back down to the to tram station to catch the first tram of the day back down to the parking lot where my car was waiting.

It was swell.

Here, in Bend, we're just pleased to have gone through last night's blow without losing a tree or a damn limb in the backyard.

We're Number Six!

On Mother Jones, Kevin Drum quotes Ed Kilgore's article about an unusual poll conducted by Public Policy Polling which ranks the favorable/unfavorable ratios of the 50 American states.

Here's how the 50 states stack up in terms of overall favorability:

As can be seen, Oregon is Number Six in terms of favorability. That's pretty cool. 

California is pretty far down, 11th from the bottom. 

It turns out that whether you like or dislike a state may be due to partisan feelings.
Democrats’ favorite states include Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Colorado, and New York, and their least favorites are led by Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi. Republicans love Alaska and Texas, and absolutely hate California, followed distantly by Illinois and Massachusetts.  So the greatest partisan gap is for California, which Democrats like 91 points more than Republicans do, followed by Texas, which is favored more by Republicans by 82 points.
Which goes a long why toward explaining why I find Texas so distasteful.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Butch Cookin' Ribeye Steak

First you gotta get a nice grass-fed, grass-finished ribeye steak. Newport Market's got 'em.

You'll also need a cast-iron skillet, and a 30-lb weight.

You pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, that's 200.

Unwrap the steak and season it with some fine salt, all sides, then wrap it in plastic wrap and stick it in the freezer for at least an hour.  You are freezing the meat.

Place a cast-iron skillet on the stovetop and set the gas to "high." You want the pan to be insanely hot. You better hope to have a good oven hood with a strong fan, which I don't.

When the pan is hot -- about ten minutes -- pull the steak out of the freezer and unwrap it, then spread a tablespoon of oil in the insanely-hot skillet.

(NB: The type of oil you use has to have a very high "smoke point" or you'll set of great clouds of hot smoke. I use Refined Avocado Oil which, as far as I can tell, has the highest smoke point of any cooking oil. No one in town carries it: I tried Nature's, Whole Foods, and the Newport Market. Had to order the stuff online. Spectrum makes it. Even so, you'll be kicking off a lot of smoke.) 

Anyway, slap the steak into the oiled skillet, then mash it against the hot iron with something like this:

A power transformer taken from a high end audio power amplifier is used to mash the steak against the very hot skillet. This lump of copper, iron, and epoxy weighs nearly 30 lbs. 

Sear the meat for a minute or so until the down side is browned.

Because the meat was frozen, only the outer layer which rested against the skillet has been cooked, which promotes good flavor. The inside will be cooked slowly and evenly which promotes tenderness and juiciosity.

So transfer the seared steak onto a small, buttered baking sheet, browned side up, and place in oven.
The steak is placed on the baking sheet with its browned side up. 

Cook until the inside of the steak reads 135F for rare, 145F for med., 165F for well-done; 30 minutes to an hour. The slow-cooking at low temperature assures even cooking throughout the steak.

Remove from oven, tent with aluminum foil for 10 minutes.

Slice thinly, season to taste, and serve with a manly, primitive, red wine.

Evenly cooked, tender, and juicy.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pamperage

IN no particular order:

Good whisky or wine, a fine broadcloth shirt, a bespoke jacket, a shave by an Italian barber, Miles Davis on the (vacuum tube) stereo, hand-roasted coffee, eggs from backyard chickens, Merino wool on the skin and lanolin-heavy sheep's wool on the outside when the weather is inclement, Cuban cigars in the $39 Tupperware humidor (gotta keep one's priorities!), the occasional massage, Linux on the netbook, sticky weed, good friends and a loving wife...the list of the things a man should endeavor to get into his life does go on and on, don't it?

Gentlemen: Pamper yourselves. Life is short.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fun With Ducting

Raining right now as I write this. Upper 40's. Today the Bend Winterfest opens with an ice carving contest, snowboarding exhibitions, live bands, beer and wine and foods and other signs of an advanced civilization. But without snow the events will not have great conditions.

Chicken Adobo tonight; something easy and tasty-sounding from Cook's Illustrated.

The oven hood -- part of a combination over-stove microwave oven/oven hood appliance -- is a piece of crap: it doesn't suck air worth a damn.

Back in December, for our traditional winter party for KPOV volunteers, I had to sear the outside of a turkey in a very hot (500F) oven. The kitchen filled with smoke, the rest of the house filled with smoke . . . and the closed garage filled with smoke, too!

Very weird.

I asked handyman extraordinaire Mike Accardo to come out to see if we could figure out this mess.

First, we took pulled the microwave/hood down and apart to see if the fan had been installed incorrectly, but it wasn't. It's a sturdy-looking assembly with a dual squirrel-cage blower and a hefty motor. The filters were plenty clean, so they weren't blocking anything.

We then turned our attention to the duct that leads from the hood to the rooftop vent. Maybe it was plugged with a bird's nest or a sheep or something? Mike found that the duct just emptied into the attic, didn't connect to the roof vent at all. So the attic would fill with smoke which then leaked into the garage.

But the duct was clear, no blockage. The blower in the hood makes a lot of noise but it barely moves air. It's just a crap design.

So anyway, for the sake of completeness, Mike came out today to replace the vent on the roof with one with a fitting on the bottom that accepts a duct from inside the attic, and connected the hood's duct to it. No sense building up a few year's worth of condensed cooking grease up there.

The hood is still a piece of crap, but at least the little smoke it sucks from the stovetop will go outside, as it is meant to. That's progress of a sort, I guess.

Maybe this year Mrs Elliott and I can buy a new over-stove microwave with a proper oven hood exhaust fan, but the microwave part works fine so it seems extravagant.

Oh wait -- now the sun is out. The weather here sure is interesting. We can have snow in summer, sun and awakening daffodils in winter. I like it.

But I doubt the folks at the Winterfest are very appreciative.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A New Monetary Unit: The Romneybet

Noun

Etymology
On December 10, 2011, during a televised Republican Presidential candidate debate, living saddlebag and Texas Governor [Rick] Perry accused department store mannequin and former Massachusetts Governor Richie Rich Mitt Romney of writing in his book that an individual mandate to purchase health insurance, which Romney supported in Massachusetts, is a model that other states should follow. Romney said Perry was wrong and asked, “Rick, I’ll tell you what, 10,000 bucks? $10,000 bet?” (Source: The Christian Post)

romneybet (plural romneybets)

1. An amount of money equal to $10,000.
Usage: 
Car Shopper: How much for this car?
Salesman: It's 3.3 Romneybets, but I think I can get you a better deal.

Monday, February 6, 2012

There Will Be Payback for Sunny Skies, says Local Pundit

The Bulletin says that,
Central Oregonians can expect [...the...] unusually sunny skies and cool climate seen this winter will stick around for at least another week. “We don't see any mention of precipitation until Friday night,” Adams said. “Even then, it is only a slight chance of rain or snow showers. Then by the weekend it should be clear again.
Bend's Goodwill Ambassador pro tem and "Bend Treasure," H. Bruce Miller  responded darkly: "We'll pay for this."

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Degrees of Frost

I recently came across the term "degrees of frost" in Wade Davis' excellent book Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest. It is used to express cold, specifically how many degrees the air is below the freezing point of water.

Jack London also used it in To Build A Fire (1908), his grim short story about a man trying to survive in sub-zero weather:
Fifty degrees below zero meant eighty-odd degrees of frost. [...] Fifty degrees below zero stood for a bite of frost that hurt and that must be guarded against by the use of mittens, ear-flaps, warm moccasins, and thick socks.   
I think the term doesn't get much use these days. It's time to resurrect it!

When Mrs Elliott and I awoke this morning it was 17 degrees Fahrenheit outside, or 25 15 degrees of frost.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Proper Dry Stout

Mrs Elliott and I visited Brother Jon's newly-open Alehouse today for a late lunch. The place was jumpin', only a couple seats short of full; the staff were friendly but not pushy, the food plain and hearty, and the clientele cheery. Several largish screens were tuned to manchannels: ESPN and Fuse.

Midway down an interesting list of 12 or so beers on tap I spotted an Irish-style stout from the Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River. Aware that St. Patrick's day is not too far away, and that it has been my avowed goal since I moved here to discover the best Irish-style dry stout in town, I really had no choice but to order a pint, now did I?

Yep. A real dry stout. It wasn't on nitro, like how they pour it at the brewery, so it wasn't just like a Dublin Guinness, but Double Mountain's description for the nitro version reads, in part, "[...] this brew is a quintessential Double Mountain interpretation of a classic style. Rich, creamy, roasty and beautifully bitter."*

As opposed to the more common versions of stouts I normally encounter, where the focus seems to be on a sickeningly sweet mess of caramel and chocolate flavors.

A beer is not a dessert. Double Mountain gets that. Theirs is the stout to beat for St. Patrick's day 2012.

Brewmasters, start your engines.

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* The way I like my womenTM.
 
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