Thursday, June 17, 2010

Veg*n Dinner at a Steakhouse? Yes!

Monday night, Staci and I got all dressed up and went downtown to Oak Steakhouse on Broad for a special event. Chefs Brett McKee (of Oak) and Ken Immer (of gRAWnola fame) collaborated on a Vegetarian/Vegan dinner that was insanely impressive.

The only disappointment that I had with the event was that not all courses were vegan-friendly. All of them were either vegan or had at least something vegan on the plate other than course five. I will say, I was naughty and did try course five. And I paid for it in the morning with a tremendous headache that I can only assume is some sort of sick retribution.

So, I want to do a quick rundown of the courses and the wine pairings and give my thoughts.

Pickled Daikon Ravioli with Preserved Carrot
Crimini Mushroom filled with Fermented Brazil Nut Cheese
Wine pairing: Champagne - Domain Carneros Brut

I was really struck with amazement from the get-go. I love daikon, A LOT. So I was very pleased with the flavors bouncing around in this. Champagne is really not my thing, but it wasn't a bad one. Way to set someone up for failure for the evening, starting out with the champagne.

Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille over Roasted Red Pepper Coulis
Wine pairing: King Estate Pinot Gris

I had never had ratatouille before, but I like the movie, so I figured what the hell. Yeah, I'm a dork. It was fabulous. Such a sort of simple dish from its composition, but so so tasty. And the red pepper coulis was perfect. It didn't hinder the veg in the dish, but it complemented it all perfectly. The wine for this course was my second favorite out of all those presented. Very well-balanced.

Asian Root Noodles with Marinated Shiitake Mushrooms and Cucumber Emulsion
Wine pairing: Davis Bynom Chardonnay

I wasn't super crazy about this dish. The flavors just didn't really hit me right. I don't think it tasted bad - not by any means. But it just wasn't the strongest dish in my mind. The wine was weird; it had a very strange coconut taste to it, which at first I thought was to complement the "coconut emulsion" but then I remembered it was cucumber not coconut, so that felt really strange to me. Wasn't bad, but just wasn't my favorite.

Ken's Taco Tango
with Micro Arugula and Mango Chutney, a Soft Corn Taquito, Sprouted Quinoa and Mung Beans, garnished with Guacamole and Live Sour Cream
Wine pairing: Voltre Santi Pinot Noir

The explanation of this course is written very strangely. I didn't eat the taco bit of it. That was the part with the sour cream on it. It smelled okay though, and Staci said it was really good. The little taquito/burrito dealie was AMAZING. Seriously. There are very few things I wouldn't do for a repeat of that experience. The filling of it was the quinoa, mung bean bit which also had pecans and carrots. It was this awesome texture...kind of chewy, but delightful. And the taste was just amazing. Bravo to Ken for that one!
The wine was good. I don't really like reds. It had a very plummy taste, though, which pleased me. Staci likes reds and she was dying over it, so I have to assume it was fantastic.

Brett's Eggplant Parmigiana
Wine pairing: Francis Coppola Directors Cabernet Sauvignon

Here is where I fell from grace. Yes, fail on my part. But I kind of wished they'd have made it for me without the cheese. The hostess assured me that this was not possible. Who knows. The eggplant was perfectly cooked, but I expected nothing less than that. The sauce was what got me. It was the most amazing red sauce I have ever had. Chef Brett really outdid himself on that beautiful, tasty sauce of goodness. Seriously. I wish I could describe it better. It was spicy but had the perfect balance of tomato acidity. It made my tummy happy.
The wine was nothing special. I say this because I don't remember anything about it.

Blueberry-Cardamom Vegan Ice Cream with a Crystallized Ginger Crisp
Chocolate Brownie Torte Garnished with White Chocolate Drizzle
Lime Shortbread with Citrus 'Anglasie'
Wine pairing: Nivoli

The presentation of this dish was really cute. It succeeded in making me ooh and ahh over its prettiness, while also making me want to shove it in my mouth. So, great success! The blueberry-cardamom ice cream had a weird texture on its own - I was not liking it at first - but then Staci told me to sort of use the ginger crisp thing to scoop it up a little. Omg. That was the key. Perfect combination, and it made me happy because, not only did it taste amazing and have a great texture, but the two parts of it relied upon each other to make it great, and I like that. The brownie torte was delish, but that's a was a brownie torte...come on. It was missing its white chocolate drizzle, but I hate white chocolate, so it was no great loss for me. the lime shortbread thing was good. Very simple and light, and I was glad that I ate from right to left across the plate and got to it last. It made me feel like I had completed the meal properly and in the right order. The Nivoli was fantastic - definitely my favorite, but I'm a sucker for sweet dessert wines. I had never even heard of Nivoli before then, so I was pleasantly surprised when I got to it.

Aside from the food, the company was wonderful. We met a few really sweet people and not only was it a networking experience among the health community, it was an opportunity to just chat and be social. I enjoyed it.

All in all, the dinner was perfect. I couldn't have hoped for anything more than I got, especially considering I was eating at a "Steakhouse". I was very lucky and happy to have taken a part in this event, and if they should have a part two (hint hint, guys..get on it!), I will definitely be in attendance.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Inbal Pinto Dance Company's "Oyster" and Why I Like Wandering

Tonight I went to my second Spoleto event. I was excited the moment I'd heard about this one, so the fact that I was able to see it really delighted me. It was Oyster - a dance production put on by the Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak Dance Company. In all of the summaries I'd read, it was to be a theatrical dance production loosely based on Tim Burton's short story, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy. But apparently Avshalom Pollak says that's not true. I will tell you my thoughts on this in a minute. But first let me tell you what I thought.

I am not super good at interpreting artsy things - I just know what I like and what I don't like. So, that being said, the "storyline" of this was, in some places, very difficult for me to follow. I'm thinking it didn't have a fast and sure storyline, but every now and then I'd pick up on something symbolic or some little part of a story. Even though I'm not a genius and probably missed a bunch of stuff, I LOVED this show. It was really fantastic. The costuming was amazing and in general, the thought put into the visual aspects, though they were mostly minimal, just blew me away. There were two particular parts of the show that gave me goosebumps. My absolute favorite was a dance with the dancers in tuxedos that had their arms sewn in, so as to appear that they were armless. I would love to show you a video of it, but taping was prohibited and there's nothing online that shows the dance with the actual music that runs with it in the production.

The music choices for the show were interesting, but they all did fit perfectly. At times, I felt like I was in a Woody Allen film, but then other times I got the Danny Elfman feeling. The music was all very emotionally charged in the way it matched up with the dance - it was chosen to create a specific feeling and mood, and it worked perfectly.

The dancers impressed me to no end. I always find classic ballet kind of boring. Yes it's beautiful, and yes those dancers have skill. But in ballet, most poses and movements are very fluid - they flow perfectly linear with the body's structure and natural muscle movement. I don't think ballet dancers are talentless - what they do is difficult and takes practice. But I was impressed by the dancers in Oyster because many of the movements they made were not natural to the human body. They were pushing the limits of their bodies and bending to create shapes that do not typically occur while doing it all through atypical movements. Aside from being amazingly fun to watch, it makes me admire them greatly for the control they are able to execute over their own bodies. I can't imagine the practice hours they put in.

Now about the Tim Burton issue. I would have to say that I don't know if I necessarily could separate this from something inspired by Tim Burton's work. It is the automatic parallel I would've drawn even if I had not read that that was the case. The characters possess a strange, dark beauty that is very akin to the characters that Tim Burton dreams up. The costuming was very much in the manner of Tim Burton as well - eccentric and exaggerated. I got a major Burton vibe the entire way through - it was dark and eerie, but in a comforting way - the same comfort I feel when I watch Nightmare Before Christmas, for example. But I also see the circus/carnival inspiration that has been brought up in some places. I can't say what thoughts went into creating this production, but I can say it was very well done, and something everyone should see if they get the chance. It was fairly short - only one hour - and there were only 11 dancers in the production. Worthwhile and very impressive.

You can see some photos and a video here and you can read City Paper's review of the show, which gives some details about the various characters and dances, over here.

I enjoyed the short stroll to my car after the show - when I'm wearing heels, I like to hear the sound echo off the buildings. Walking downtown on summer nights is among my favorite experiences. It's another comfort to me. It's balmy and there's sometimes a light breeze going. I like seeing people walking down King Street and making up little thoughts about where they were and where they're going. I'm in love with the glow of the lights and the passing cars. I used to do this in New York, too. I'd walk St. Marks Place and the blocks around Astor Place station late at night. It made me feel safe. I enjoyed the solitude, but at the same time, I felt very connected to everything going on around me. I've been missing New York a lot lately - my time there was a very happy one - so I think walking in Charleston at night is sort of my trying to get back something I can't have. But so far, it's filling the void, and it's a little pleasure I like to enjoy every now and then.

Not much else has been going on. My medicine has not been effective in preventing my headaches, so this week, my doctor changed my dosage to triple what it was before. I still have headaches and I'm just so tired. The medicine wipes me out and I sleep for an average 15 hours a day, which is ridiculous. I want my energy back! So I hope this all subsides very soon. Today so far I've been awake for 12 straight hours, so I guess that's a good start. If I start feeling better, I might get the chance to make a go of this roller derby thing! So let's hope things clear up.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

First Spoleto Experience

So I've lived in Charleston since the end of 2006, but I've never made it to a Spoleto Festival event. I thought why the hell not do it now, before I get out of this place. So I pulled a few strings and got tickets to the two shows I wanted to see, the first of which was last night.

I saw on the calendar, "Die Roten Punkte". I'm a German major (i.e., nerd) so I was kind of curious. The description given on the Spoleto website is as follows:

Die Roten Punkte (the utterly dysfunctional pairing of German siblings Otto and Astrid Rot) became an instant household name in Europe after topping the charts in Germany and Poland with their 2005 hits “I’m in a Band” and “Best Band in the World.” Described as "inspired, brilliantly executed lunacy…a lipstick-smeared, tantrum-loving, sonic collision between Plastic Bertrand, Kraftwerk and early Ramones,” Die Roten Punkte are unforgettably unique. Their songs are ridiculously infectious and their live show is one of the most irreverent and hilarious gigs you are ever likely to see.

Okay, so it sort of insinuated that there would be a comical aspect to the show, but otherwise it describe it as a normal concert. And that's kind of what I was expecting. In great luck I was though, because the folks at City Paper pretty much spoiled the surprise with their review. Thanks, guys. To be fair, I still wasn't entirely sure what to expect.

The show was really great - loved every minute of it (okay, maybe there were 5 or so questionable minutes, but still). Read the City Paper review, because I really can't give a more accurate description than they did. I think it's important that they noted that the two may not actually be German, even though they subtley tiptoed around it. There were a few accent slips that I noticed in the show, and of course some very overdone pronunciation. But if the two aren't German, they at least do a very good job of pretending to be.

Here's a little video interview with them. Gives you a little idea of the kind of humor in the show.

It was one of those things that you could only enjoy if you didn't take yourself too seriously. The show kind of poked fun at all the little weird cultural subsets, and if you're not a person who can laugh at yourself a little, then it's really not for you. But I still recommend it...highly.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Don't laugh, ok.

So last night I went out with a friend and some of her friends. It was interesting and fun, and it was nice to meet some new people. The topics of conversation varied greatly throughout the evening and at one point, Staci and I re-discussed something that has been reoccurring.

We had the City Paper open in front of us and there was an article about Charleston's roller derby team and some parade thing that they did for the opening of a show at Redux art studios. And once again I told her, "I want to do that." This has happened probably a good ten times over the past few months and at first it was a huge joke. Staci usually gives me a hearty, "I think you could take 'em!" and then I laugh in her face and explain that these girls are really tough. I'm not a super skinny girl, but I've got really thin arms and I'm not the kind of girl you usually see shoving people out of her way while on roller skates. I just don't think anyone would look at me and say, "oh yeah, she looks like she could be a roller girl." Yes, it is laughable. But I think with a little effort I could do it.

Seriously...tough girls.

While the past few months had seen this idea as a joke, I keep thinking about it. I'm actually really awesome at skating...well...I used to be, I'm sure it would take some practice to get back with it. And I think it'd be fun. So I told Staci last night that "I'm going to do it." I don't know if I really will, but...I really kind of want to. I'm not even sure how one gets involved in this situation. But I'm going to find out. (...after I go to the gym and buff up a bit so I don't get my ass kicked by default...)

Photo borrowed from here.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Netflix Killed The Video Store?

So it's June already. I'm a little shocked, but glad we're one month closer to being done with this year.

I've been having trouble finding a job. I'm really not so surprised. There's not much available at the moment that I'm qualified for, and the food and beverage industry, which is where most of the availability is, is not forgiving in the way of taking time off. That is an issue anyway. I do not feel comfortable getting a job and then asking for 2-4 off to return home to Pennsylvania, which I have to do in August for my MRI and neurologist stuff. When they ask me about scheduling and I say I'd need this time off, they ask why. When I tell them why, it's an automatic strike against me because I'm "sick". I'm not into lying to get my way, so unfortunately I suck at this. It's frustrating, but anyway...

This all leaves with me with a lot of free time. Lots of it is spent sleeping since the new medicine has kicked in. It makes me very tired and often dizzy for awhile after I take it. Not even so much dizzy as just unable to balance myself. I find myself really struggling to not trip or fall over. Luckily, that side effect only lasts for about an hour, but that adds up to a total of two hours of my waking day. So I've been spending a lot of my down time at home, watching movies and stuff on Netflix.

Now, please don't get me wrong - I love Netflix. It's an amazing convenience and I like being able to have so many choices. But I kind of miss going to the video store. I still have a Blockbuster card and everything, so it's not like I *can't* go. But since I'm paying for Netflix and have like a combined 600 movies between my two queues, I feel like I shouldn't go to the video store because it's fiscally irresponsible. So I miss it a lot. It used to be an adventure. When I was living with someone, we'd go out and take a long walk or go to the beach or do some other stupid, but entertaining activity. And then late at night before we went home, we'd stop by Blockbuster. It was always an ordeal choosing movies. We spent a ridiculous amount of time looking around and I remember I was always wearing something like sweatpants or beach clothes or something unfancy. The video store was part of a whole relaxing, laid back day.

So I think sometime this weekend when I'm lounging around, I'm going to go and just rent one movie. And not bother getting dressed up to leave the house. And just relax. Just the thought of it puts a smile on my face!

In other news, I'm going to challenge myself to blog every day or at least every other day. I *always* say this, but I'm really going to try, and I think it'll be good for me because if I've got nothing, it'll force me to go out and find something. I'm sure a lot of what I have to say will be trivial, but that's the beauty of it being *my* blog. Oh yes. So here's hoping it works out well! We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

I was going to write a legitimate blog post, but then I came across this.

I just can't write 'em this good, folks.