Friday, December 28, 2007

Pizza Report

Warning Foodie Entry

By special request from BCD blogista Xani, here are the notes from our recent edition of Xmas Day Pizza.

Disclaimer One: Even though Elegant International Business Woman Daughter insisted on a 360 degree evaluation of the pizza process in all truth we never asked the finished pizza for its opinion which I believe invalidates the 360 degree concept.

Disclaimer Two: We really are not the most scientific of cooks. An awful lot of our cooking nuances are entrusted to memory. And since our memories are notoriously feeble take all you read here with a large grain of salt

Base Recipe comes from the New York Times International Cook Book by Craig Claibourne, Harper & Row, Copyright 1971, Page 528

History – We used to make Lasagna for Xmas but when the kids were little they didn’t like the ricotta cheese so we switched to pizza. We’ve always used the dough recipe and the basic cooking instructions (putting dough spread out on a cookie sheet and cooked in the bottom rack of a 500 degree oven) but always used our own sauce and have been playing around with toppings, proportions, and fine points of cooking.

Toppings this year were
  • Pepperoni
  • Bacon - cooked ahead of time
  • Spinach - nuked and water was squeezed out
  • Mushrooms - sautéed with no seasoning
  • Onions – sliced, raw

The Notes:

  1. We need new, thicker cookie sheets. We’ve had the same cookie sheets for years and they seem to have hot spots leading to little burned sections
  2. I think we are going to experiment with reducing the heat slightly and cooking them longer next year to get more consistent crust crispness and get rid of underdone spots
  3. Confirmed that toppings need to go over the mozzarella but under the Parmesan. Parmesan on the top creates a nice crispness
  4. We liked the bacon because it was neither too salty nor too smokey (Farmland brand thick bacon)
  5. We liked the spinach a lot
  6. Cook onions some to avoid water problem

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wine? Wine Not?

One of the on going problems at the de-I menage is wine. Not having wine; lord no we have enough wine for sure. Drinking wine is the problem.

Actually to be more precise, I have a wine purchasing problem. I love the process of finding new wines to buy - especially wines that can benefit from sitting for a while. They don't have to have 20 year aging potential (I'd never get to drink them) just wines that will benefit from sitting for a bit. As a result I buy from all kinds of resources (internet, wineries I've visited, stores).

The problem is my capacity for buying far exceeds my capacity for drinking especially with me traveling so much. As a result my wine purchasing has to screech to a halt because I have no where to store the wine. While one resolution is to invite people over for dinner - except that most of them bring - wine. This usually leads to a net change in inventory of zero.

I recently found however a solution - visits from Elegant International Business Woman. I decided to let EIBW choose all our wines. So I brought her to the wine storage area and was about to go through all the wines when (being the efficient business person she is) she said:

"Just show me the oldest most expensive wines you have"

With that she, she quickly chose the wines she wanted. I'm happy to report that even though we only had three wine consuming meals, with EIBW, Mrs de-I and myself we managed to consume 5 bottles. That's almost a half a case - valuable open space in the storage that just is crying to be filled. Hmmm should I wait for the next internet offer or should I take some gift money and run down to the store?

The Box

A gift to Wife and I from my friend and past partner in turnarounds and restaurants Art and his wife Toya.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Xmas Day 2007 - Recap

When it's just Wife, I and Elegant International Business Woman daughter, Christmas Eve is really the big event. Without the energy of a gaggle of grandchildren, Christmas Day is fairly sedate. On top of that since everybody blew most of their life's savings so yours truly could gorge on truffles (a wise choice on their part in my opinion) and since we will probably be in debtors prison watching television feeds of our beautiful renovated house in the near future, it was mutually decided to skip the adult present swapping this year.

We got up late opened a couple of perfunctory gifts and had our traditional breakfast of bacon, sausage, home made biscuits and oranges. Then we sat around and chilled most of the day until time for the traditional Christmas Day meal of home made pizza. Alexis and Wife did a fabulous job and we actually took notes about what worked and what didn't (first time in 30 some odd years).

More chilling and quiet time followed. And you know for three adults who have been working real hard all year that was totally OK.

One last note, evidently Wife felt that Elegant International Business Woman daughter was getting all the fashion press so she decided it was necessary for her to break out the Mysterious Christmas Bunny Slippers.

Wife got these as a present a couple of years ago but there was no name as to who it was from and she has never been able to get anyone to fess up

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Xmas Eve 2007 - In Pictures

The Christmas Table

Mrs. de-I Masterpieces
Homemade Bread and Pie

First Course
Shrimp and Crab with Cocktail Sauce and Aioli
(Note to the BCD Girls: When you buy good old Maryland Phillips Brand crab meat you get crab straight from ...Vietnam!)

Main Course

Salmon Searing

Squash Roasting

Squash Roasted

Main Course on the Table

Wines of the Evening

Monday, December 24, 2007

Prelude to Christmas

Occasionally at the Hotel de-Intimidator we get foreign guests. This year we are pleased and excited that a dignitary from the Netherlands made a reservation to use our humble lodgings as a base for her Christmas activities and visitations.

We at Hotel de-I did our research and found that our guest had a soft spot for things French, especially French Christmas celebrations. Although in her job as a high level manager for an international finance firm does get her to Paris, we thought that we would do our best.

We served up dish inspired by meals we have had in France. Starting with the French version of potato pancakes (for latkes makers this involves removing the onions and adding cheese) as a base, we added a layer of smoked salmon and topped it with eggs scrambled with basil. On the side was a French country classic, puree of celery root. Our wine was a 2000 white burgundy that was sadly a tad disappointing. Based on the little moan like sounds during the eating, I think we were on target.

The Dish

Elegant International Business Woman Dining at Hotel de-I

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Curse or Cause?

Dearest youngest daughter AinA (Alexis in Amsterdam) is in town for the second year running for Christmas. Actually she's here for a very good friend's wedding, but since she's in Albuquerque she's staying with us for Christmas. Yeah!

Last year at the big triennial family Christmas get together Albuquerque was pummeled with snow. Poor AinA got trapped in the Denver Airport for three days. At the time we cursed her bad luck.

So this year what happens. It snowed again! Remember this is Albuquerque; not exactly Buffalo (Hi Tim). And it's supposed to snow again on Christmas Day. These two years are the only years we've had snow on Christmas in the 14 years we've been in Albuquerque -- and they both coincided with AinA returning from Amsterdam -- a coincidence?

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Reading the most recent post at Pu's Corner, I found to my amazement that there is a whole sub-culture in our blog-monde concerning the use of the word ass. Evidently it is considered an art form in our culture to use the word ass in a manner that is frequent and yet tasteful. Bloggers who achieve this state are evidently rated as greater practitioners of the art.

I feel almost naive that I was totally unaware of this artistic standard. I suppose I could write it off to my anachronistic status. However, being ambitious still I have chosen to make an attempt to become involved in the art of tasteful use of ass.

The Shepard's Dinner

A nomad chief was expecting the governor of the local province to visit. It was customary to treat such a dignitary with a fine meal. However it was a time of year when all the sheep flocks were in the mountains to graze. The chief called his shaman for to fail to produce meat at a feast such as this would be unacceptable.

"Chieftain, we will most certainly have to slaughter and serve the governor your ass."
"My ass! That tough old beast. Impossible. The governor could chew all day and not assimilate that animal."
"Chief, I'm sure if we talked to the most experienced cooks in the tribe we would assertain some way of cooking it."
"I'm afraid if we served this assbackward dish the governor would think we're trying to assassinate him."

The most experienced cook assured the chief that stewing the ass with molasses would do the trick.

The chief went ahead with the plan. The whole tribe assembled and everyone sat down on the grass and ate ass including the governor.

The End

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas at de-I-holm

Actually a more accurate title would be Christmas at the MRS. de-I-holm as I because of my infidel background and upbringing don't really have all that Christmas memory stuff hardwired into my emotional circuitry. Nonetheless, while I was watching Motherrocker and John the Armenian with their preparations last weekend, Mrs. de-I was busy with ours.

Here is the traditional de-I tree with all the obligatory ornaments
(and a ton of tinsel as specifically ordered by yours truly)

So How Many Santas Are Really Healthy for Any One Person?
One really wonders if Wife is going to get a restraining order someday for stalking Santa

Mrs. de-I Joyously in the Process of Making Goodies
(I believe her actual words just before I took this were, "I wish you never #@&*# started that stupid blog)

Nothing More Festive than Christmas Cards Around the HD TV
Especially festive this coming Saturday when the big Real Madrid/Barcelona soccer game is on this Saturday

Not PC But Definitely DC (Dutch Correct)
You will need to go here to understand this

So Where's the Horse?
AinA brought this set back from Amsterdam when she was here for the 60th and originally had a horse with it. Horse was last seen being played with by various granddaughters...One wonders where said horse currently resides.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Big Changes in the de-I World

Albuquerque has gotten lots of press recently as a city on the move, as a top ten place to live or to do business (take that you Chicago types!). Recently the Albuquerque Economic Development Committee scored a coup in its bid to make our fair city one of the major players in the Pod-Goertz Blogospheric market when it placed the winning bid to attract Pu's Corner to Albuquerque. That's right, Pu's Corner, the Grandmother of all Pod-Goertz blogs is relocating to the Duke City.

As the author of Pu's corner, the Venerable Pulisha, is one of the de-I household offspring, married to resident sports fanatic Tim di Buffalo and parent of grandchildren C, J, and A naturally the event has generated an air of frenzied excitement in the de-I land.

Mrs. de-I (sipping her after dinner drink) - "When are Pu and Tim di actually scheduled to move?"
de-I - "I'm not really sure"
Mrs. de-I - "I guess they'll let us know."
de-I - "I guess."

Mrs. de-I is fully anticipating all the Grandmotherly babysitting that may result.

Venerable Pu - "So I looked on line and there's a house for sale in our price range right next to you guys!"
Mrs. de-I - "No there isn't."
Venerable Pu - "Sure the house number is the next one down from you."
Mrs. de-I - "Oh yah I forgot that one."
Venerable Pu - "Won't that be neat the grandchildren would be right next door!"
Mrs. de-I - "Won't work. You can't buy that house."
Venerable Pu - "Why not. It's perfect."
Mrs de-I - "Our neighborhood association has covenants that limit a house to no more than two children."
Venerable Pu - "You just made that up."

Then of course there's having a little more testosterone in the nearby family -- certainly something to look forward to.

Tim di - "So Dad are you pumped about us coming. You'll be able to come to our house and watch football!"
de-I - "Great"
Tim di - We can even get you a replica Buffalo Jersey just like Pu has!"
de-I - "Oh that's too bad."
Tim di - "What's too bad"
de-I - "You cant's watch Buffalo games in Albuquerque"
Tim di - "What! Why not?"
de-I - "Albuquerque is a Buffalo sports team free zone. It was passed by the city council last year. No Buffalo sports are allowed to be broadcast in the city limits."
Tim di - "You just made that up."

But seriously, having gobs of family (I think a child, spouse and three grandchildren qualifies as a gob) coming back is a totally new experience. We are actually quite excited and really looking forward to it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Scenes from the MR Xmas Tree

I took these last Sunday when I was at Motherrockers.

Actually this should be termed Scenes from John the Armenian's Xmas Tree as the tree and the ornaments are all from J's Aunt who passed away. John is now the holder of the tradition.

The tree set up with lights put on courtesy of Motherrocker and de-I

John taking out all the decorations. A lot of memories going on.
I didn't see how he was going to get them all on the tree.

MR and The Dukes taking in all the neat stuff to go on the tree
MR chose not to use her new fashion choices for this shot!

Miss Dukes in action putting on ornaments

Miss Dukes was going at it so fast she was a blur of activity

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Life's Little Pleasures

I made a successful escape from Chicago catching on Wednesday the one day break between periods of crappy weather to catch a flight to San Francisco where I drive north once again over the Golden Gate bridge on my way to San Rafael in Marin County. It may not be the "Delaware of Europe" but at least its not Nowhere, Iowa either.

I have a meeting today with a client from the Bay area. They set the meeting at very lovely bed and breakfast the Gerstle Park Inn. Excellent room with a great public area and big enough to have a sizable group. They had bottle of a crisp drinkable chardonnay waiting for quests and a crystal carafe of white port in the room for later -- very classy.

I needed dinner so I ventured out into town. I used to be very morose about eating by myself but in later years decided that was stupid. So I look at it as a bit of a game when I'm in a new locale to see if I can find myself a good meal. I did well this time finding a locally owned Italian place called Il Davide. It was clearly a local hangout. The owner, a very elegant looking gentleman about my age, was greeting everyone many of whom he knew. I got there around 8:15 and it was almost full. A number of others arrived after me so it was doing a good business. There was a guy playing classical guitar in the entrance way. He didn't stop the whole time I was there and the playing was excellent. I gave him a sizable tip when I left.

Dinner was lovely. I had a smoked duck breast carpaccio for an appetizer -- nice, light and flavorful with just a touch of arugala and tiny dash of a mustard/vinegar sauce with capers and touch of Parmesan cheese. For the main course, I chose a ravioli di Oso Bucco which was ravioli with a filling based on braised veal. The sauce was a light tomato/cream sauce with the emphasis clearly on the tomato. The filling was a predominate flavor, the pasta very light and not overly chewy or overpowering the filling. There was a dusting of sauteed garlic and parley on the top. A glass of a Dolcetto rounded of the the meal. I savored every bite with the music. And to top it off the whole meal was $37 bucks before tip! I found out that Wednesday is wine night with 25% off all bottles.

So if you find yourself in northern Marin County remember - Gerstle Park Inn and Il Davide.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Gotta find something to write about - Gotta find...

After the huge weekend of 60th birthday events which provided more than ample material for blogging, it's been tough to get back into the creative mode. So rather than write nothing, I will go with boring.

On the home front, Wife is trying to get Christmas planning going. She's behind on her presents and decorating. We had friends C and R over for dinner on Friday while doing some business stuff. I whipped up some linguine with sausage. Then on Saturday I roasted a chicken for Wife and I. We opened up a bottle of viognier from Iron Horse in Sonoma (October visit not this last one) and it was really good.

On the work front business continues to be strong. Some of the troops want me to revisit the title of my upcoming book because they don't feel it will be found via Google so I've asked them for their ideas. I've decided to hire a PR person to increase our visibility in Albuquerque. I'm on my last trip of the year to Chicago and the Bay Area. Hopefully, I'm done until January three weeks maybe four without an airplane ride if I'm lucky.

On Sunday, I came into Chicago early so I could hang with Motherrocker, John the Armenian and Granddaughter Y. Really lucked out as there was freezing rain which delayed tons of flights into ORD...but not mine! Got to pal around a bit with Y while the elders went out in the afternoon. Then watched them put up their Christmas tree. Got some photos on my phone but they will have to wait as I forgot my cable to upload them to the computer.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Oh Ye Mundane Life

Back home

Everything as it should be

No truffles

No Champagne

No Foie Gras

No Caviar

No gobs and gobs of family

Back in the work groove

Sweet, sweet memories and appreciation of how lucky I am

Monday, December 3, 2007

D-Day plus 4 & 5 – Winding Down

After all the excitement of the last few days, today was more of a chilling out day. I cooked up a bunch of bacon, sausage, and scrabbled eggs (in bacon grease) for breakfast. The grandkids all pronounced the eggs excellent.

John the Armenian and Motherrocker want to take all the kids (their one – Pulisha’s two older childrent) to a small amusement park called train town. Wife has volunteered to be the third adult attendant so that Pulisha can rest while Tim de Buffalo and AinA come with me to do some wine tasting. Both parties enjoy the events.
For dinner I just whip up some spaghetti carbonara with some brussel sprouts and asparagus accompanied by the wine we picked up. Everyone was pretty tired and crashed early.

The next day the child bearing groups got off to an early start. John and Motherrocker will be spending a couple of days with his parents in Lafayette just across the bay from San Francisco. Wife and I take AinA to San Francisco with us. We spent a few hours in Golden Gate Park looking at various gardens and buildings. We then caught a lovely late lunch at the Cliff House overlooking the Pacific. We drop her off to do some shopping (she will be taking metro to catch up with John and Motherrocker this evening. Wife and I head to the airport. We have a flight that won’t get us in until late and tomorrow the real world will start anew.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Pictures from the Extravaganza

The Clan at Breakfast

Evidence that Alexis in Amsterdam is in the House

The Meal at Cyrus

The Menu

Cauliflower Soup

The Foie Gras

The Beets

The Lamb

The Sea Bass

Tim de Buffalo and Alexis in Amsterdam doing Sonoma Wine Tasting

Wife doing her Grandmother Thing

D-Day plus 3 – So Why Are We In The Boondocks of Sonoma County Anyway?

We are here, the entire nuclear de-I clan in our rental in the middle of rural Sonoma County, CA. So why are we here? Why have people driven hundreds of miles from the Southern California, flown and driven over 1300 miles from Chicago, flown and driven many thousands of miles from Amsterdam, dragged their kids, and wandered through the dark to get to this place in Sonoma? If you know our family it can only be one thing – a meal – a restaurant.

In the spirit of their surprise, I know nothing of this. The day unfolds without event. We went out for breakfast and then went for a walk in a redwood forest. We get back to the rental and there’s now a flurry of activity with women getting hair and make-up ready and announcements that we have to be ready by 6 PM. I’m just watching all this go on and with around 20 minutes to go I can go and change. I was told by Wife to back a coat and tie before we left. Where in Sonoma could one go that required a coat and tie?

At 6 PM two professional babysitters arrive to take care of all the children. Thirty minutes later two cabs arrive to take the adults away. A 20-minute drive later we are in downtown Healdsburg at a restaurant by the name of Cyrus. Yes, my beloved crew knowing their Dad and Husband knew that the only thing that would suffice for this celebration was going to be a great meal. So starting over a year ago, this crew started researching. After substantial searching they located a restaurant in Healdsburg, CA in Sonoma; a Michelin two star restaurant by the name of Cyrus. And around this choice, all the rest unfolded.

We are ushered into a private dining room where the service begins. We’re offered to start a selection of caviars and champagnes. Only daughters Motherrocker and Pulisha are interested in the caviar so I get a half and ounce of Iranian Osetra to begin with a bottle of 1988 Veuve Cliquot Champagne. We tend to not be a champagne drinking group; but then again we don’t usually get champagne of this quality because we loved it. The caviar had accompaniments but we opted to eat the caviar by itself unadulterated.

Then our headwaiter brings out the ‘truffle service’. This consists of wooden box that is ceremonially opened to show a humungous Italian white truffle. We can have this truffle shaved over any one of a number of our courses. It would take a much more committed food writer than I to go into all the detail on our meal but I will hit the highlights.

Here is our menu:

Amuse Bouche – little things to start with including some great little Gruyere Cheese puffs and an olive gelée

First Course:

Cauliflower Soup or Thai Marinated Lobster

Second Course:

Roasted Beets or Seared Foie Gras

Third Course:

Matsutake Mushrooms in broth or Truffled Red wine Risotto

Fourth Course:

Black Sea Bass or Rouade of Lamb

Fifth Course:


Sixth Course:

Fruit based desserts or chocolate based desserts

Everything was extremely good but certain things were over the top.

The foie gras, the risotto with the truffles (Have I mentioned that I really, really, really love truffles), the beets (unbelievable what one could do with a beet), the lamb (hard to believe I had two fabulous lamb dishes in one trip).

For wine I chose:

A 2003 Meursault and a 1990 Gevrey-Chambertin

The service was great. The ambiance was great. The food was great. The wine was great. And the company was the best. Nice birthday gift.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

D-Day Plus 2 – Wife and Many Others are a Nefarious Group

Well it turned out to be a walking tour of Chinatown ending at a restaurant for lunch. The tour was very interesting, a lot of fun, though with the temperature in the upper forties and lower fifties it got cold. We rendezvoused with the tour guide at a hotel. We also rendezvoused with A and S, parent and stepparent respectively of John the Armenian, our stepson #1. Of course I walked right by them without even noticing them before I finally realized they were there – another of Wife’s surprises.

Once we got done with the tour and lunch (reasonable Cantonese fare but nothing worthy of a write up in and of itself), we went back to the Fairmont where we had left our luggage. Wife is upset because we are running an hour or more late so we’re hoofing it up Nob Hill big time. We get there and she asks me if I mind driving in the city. “No”. “Good we’re renting a car”.
There’s a Hertz kiosk in the Fairmont. Wife has made a reservation. I casually mention I’m Hertz Gold. Girl in kiosk says, “too bad you weren’t on the reservation or I could have gotten you a better car.” She plugs my name into the computer and says, “Oh, you’re a five star!” I didn’t even know that. Then Wife, seeing an opportunity brings out the big gun, “and this is his 60th birthday trip.” Agent - “let me see what I can do.” So we end up with this really fabulous Cadillac STS for the price of Toyota Camry.

Wife says we’re going to do a quick walk in the Muir Woods Redwood Forest to work up to the next eating event. It’s 45 minutes from San Francisco. We get there at 3:30 and hike around for an hour. I always love the Redwood forest. Where to now?

Wife says were driving north. We get on the 101 and it’s 4:30. That means rush hour or not fun driving. Wife says we’re going 48.7 miles (Mapquest) and I say “isn’t that around Santa Rosa where we just were?” No comment.

We go through Santa Rosa and head off the 101 going west. I’m thinking, “this is weird, I know the tastes of the people who were suppose to join us who unfortunately had to cancel out and there is nothing like that that I know of in this region,”

Now we’re heading into the dark, dark, dark countryside. Wife has these directions. We’re suppose to be somewhere by 6:30 but I don’t know where. Evidently it is a house of some kind but we cannot find the road. Stop at a small store. They’ve never heard of the street. I am trying very, very hard to stay calm as we wander around in the dark.

Finally, Wife fishes out different instructions and after two passes we come to this intersection where we think it might be but can’t really figure it out. Then another car comes right next to us and stops. They roll down the window and I do likewise. “Do you know where Corso Road is?” the driver asks. “No, we’re trying to find it too.” Then one of the people in the back of the car says “Doesn’t someone have a birthday?” I take a closer look in the car and sloooowwwwwlllly notice that my granddaughter, Yelena is in the back of the car. And then I notice that my daughter Alexis is right next to her. “Hey, aren’t you the one who lives in Amsterdam?” Boy these hallucinations are terrible. Then I notice that John the Armenian and daughter Stef are in the car too. This is too freaky. Then one of the kids says, “there’s Tim de Buffalo (husband of Pulisha). “The whole freakin’ clan is here!”

I am speechless. They’ve been planning this thing for almost a year! I’m tellin’ you can’t trust anybody.