Megnut

Archive for December 2004

I'm a People of the Year 2004

This is a little bit of old news, as it came out last week while I was on vacation, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. PC Magazine named me, Ev, Paul, Ben, and Mena as People of the Year 2004 for our work in creating Blogger and Movable Type, respectively. My mom posted the "pictures" from the print version of the article: me, Ev, and pb and Ben and Mena. It's still difficult to believe that blogging as come so far, and of course, it wouldn't have if it weren't for the work of many, many others in addition to the "people of the year". So congratulations are in order to everyone -- the writers, the readers, and the tool creators. Indeed it appears as if blogs have finally arrived, which means 2005 will be the year of the blog backlash. ;)

Supporting the US troops abroad

Over the Christmas holiday I discovered anysoldier.com and was surprised I hadn't stumbled across it sooner.

Sergeant Brian Horn from LaPlata, Maryland, an Army Infantry Soldier with the 173rd Airborne Brigade was in the Kirkuk area of Iraq when he started the idea of AnySoldier to help care for his soldiers. He agreed to distribute packages that came to him with "Attn: Any Soldier" in his address to the soldiers who were not getting mail. Brian is no longer in Iraq but Any Soldier Inc. continues with your support.

Any Soldier Inc. started in August 2003 as a simple family effort to help the soldiers in one Army unit, thus our name. However, due to overwhelming requests, on 1 January 2004 our effort was expanded to include any member, of any of the Armed Services, in harms way.

We now have 981 Contacts (872 Army, 8 Navy, 42 Air Force, and 59 Marine) helping approx 43,570 soldiers!

There's a list of contacts, including recent emails, and a list of suggested items to send. You can even purchase care packages that have already been assembled with soldiers' needs in mind. I spent a long time just reading the emails from soldiers, it gives you a better sense of what it's like over there than reading most news articles. So if you received some money for Christmas and you're not sure how to spend it, consider getting something for Any Soldier and making a soldier's day.

Masa grabs four stars

Masa, the very expensive Japanese restaurant at the Time Warner Center gets four stars from New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni: Sushi at Masa Is a Zen Thing.

Simply put, Masa engineers discrete moments of pure elation that few if any other restaurants can match.

It also becomes the first Japanese restaurant in New York to garner four stars from the Times since Hatsuhana in 1983. Bruni's experiences sound incredible, and yet as much as I love sushi, I can't fathom spending $350 per person (not including tip, tax, or drinks) to experience it. Not even if I saved up a dollar every day for year. It sure sounds yummy though. Maybe someday someone will treat me to a dinner there. That would be ideal!

Drinking the best bubbly

The New York Times steps up to the plate and reviews 23 vintage Champagnes for which they paid between $70 - $195 a bottle in the article, The Price Is to Gulp, but the Champagne's to Sip. The verdict? Not surprisingly, expensive Champagne is delicious! Well, they use better adjectives than that...

[T]here was no arguing with these wines. They were graceful yet intense, fresh, complex and lively but with the thrilling tactile delicacy you might find running your hand over the finest fabrics or inhaling the scent of great leather. The bubbles sparkle on the tongue, gently stimulating the appetite for more.

It is a splurge to be sure, and one that seems difficult to justify except for a few times in one's life (baby, marriage, etc.) but if you insist on celebrating this new year's eve in high bubbly style, the article will point you in the right direction. And I promise to withhold judgment, as I've been known to possess a weakness for fine Champagne myself.

Late to the moblogging game

After nearly a day's worth of fiddling (and two years worth of delay in getting a mobile with a camera), I've got my phone posting photos to both Flickr and my new sidebar section Photographing. Right now the pictures are just junk shots from around the apartment as I trouble-shot many issues. And here's a weird one for those of you contemplating the Nokia 6600: I was unable to send my photos (as multimedia messages) to anyone until I'd first sent one to myself. Wha? Yup. That's what T-Mobile support told me.

I said to the woman, "Well it's good I called. How on earth was I supposed to figure that out? Why's it like that?"

And she said, "That's the way the system is designed."

Of course that's the way the system's designed. [Insert requisite rant about retarded systems design here.] Aside from that, I'm psyched for more moblogging about town. Now I just need to get out of my bathrobe and actually go "about town."

Good Bye Lenin

The other evening I finally got around to watching Good Bye Lenin!, a German film from 2003. Set in East Berlin prior to and following the fall of the Berlin Wall, it's the story of a boy (Alex) who's mother revives from a coma and can't be told about what's happened while she slept: that her beloved East Germany is no more. It was surprisingly funny, and very touching at times, as Alex and his sister struggle to recreate a quickly disappearing world in their mother's bedroom. It was definitely one of the better movies I've seen this year and I recommend it.

You do learn something new every day

And today I learned it's Brussels sprouts, not brussel sprouts. I guess I kinda of knew in the way back of my mind that there was some connection with Belgium, but not enough to realize it was Brussels sprouts. From Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters:

Brussels sprouts are a variety, gemmifera, of the cabbage species Brassica oleracea. Because of selective breeding done in the thirteenth century in Belgium, [B]russels sprouts do indeed look like tiny, perfectly formed cabbages. They grow on a heavy stock, several feet tall, with a few large leaves at the top. As with cabbage, there are both red and green varieties.

I guess the 's' is silent? I've never heard anyone say anything but, "brussel sprouts." Or maybe it's just me? Regardless, now's the season for these yummy sweet mini cabbages, and there's so many ways to prepare them. Tonight I'm just going slowly cook mine in some brown butter. But you could also make Martha Stewart's Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apples. Mmm...now I'm hungry!

Holiday present for an aspiring cook

Think Like a ChefOver the next few weeks, I may or may not continue to recommend things I love for your holiday gift consideration. But today I offer Tom Colicchio's Think Like a Chef. Mr. Colicchio is chef/owner of both (the amazing and yummy!) Gramercy Tavern and Craft, in New York City. This cookbook is less about recipes -- though it certainly has them -- and more about cooking technique and philosophy, enabling the reader to actually learn by doing rather than simply follow a list and instructions. I've found it very useful and informative and it's quickly become one of my favorites on my cookbook shelf. When I started working in the kitchen this past fall, I was surprised to find how much I already knew. This book contributed to my knowledge and made my transition from aspiring amateur to aspiring professional that much easier. A great gift for someone who really does want to learn how to, "think like a chef."

Book giving ideas

Not from me this time, though if I read more new books I would recommend some too you. This one comes from the New York Times: 100 Notable Books of the Year.

This year the [New York Times] Book Review has selected 100 Notable Books from those reviewed since the Holiday Books issue of Dec. 7, 2003.

Sadly I've only read one on the entire list, The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan, the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America, which was great. 2004 has been my most pathetic year for reading. I used to read the number of books I've read this year in a week back in the day. Hopefully 2005 will be different.

A sad breakup

I hadn't realized this, but apparently some time ago, Ken and Barbie -- one of the world's most popular couples -- broke up! It seems Barbie has a new boyfriend now, a fellow named Blaine. Here's a photo of the love birds released by their agent Mattel in 2003. Apparently friends and fans are not happy about the end of the nearly 50 year union between Barbie and Ken and have been posting angrily about it over at Amazon, as you can see in the customer reviews at Amazon for Barbie's New Boyfriend Blaine with Boogie Board, Surfer Gear & Exclusive 'Cali-Zine' Magazine. A reviewer named Kris writes:

Don't worry ladies. I'll deal with this Blaine guy for you...Once he's gone, Barbie can get over her little mid-life crises and get back with Ken. Then all will be right in the world again.

People really don't deal with break-ups well, do they? Even when the 'people' doing the breaking up are 11" plastic dolls.

The best chocolate in Paris

From the Sunday New York Times comes this delicious article, In Paris, Boutiques and Cafes Where Chocolatiers Raise the Bar.

Herewith, then, a guide to Paris for the chocolate aficionado. It is by no means exhaustive; the Paris phone book has several pages of listings for chocolatiers, but I think this represents a selection of those most worthy of your time.

It contains a good listing of the top spots in the city. Closer to home, if your home happens to be New York City, is the Chocolate Bar. Oddly enough, I've never visited this place, even though it's so close to my house. When I first moved to NYC, I assumed I'd go here regularly, and yet it's never happened. Perhaps this afternoon I'll pay them a visit. All this reading and thinking about chocolate has made me hungry!

Pale Male and the City

I missed a great essay yesterday from MUG entitled, Why Pale Male Matters. (For those who aren't aware, Pale Male (and his mate Lola) are red-tailed hawks that have lived for 11 years in a nest they built on the cornice of a Fifth Avenue co-op overlooking Central Park. A week ago, the co-op board removed the nest, leaving the hawks homeless. Protesters have been at the scene ever since, as the hawks float overhead.) Editor Charlie Suisman writes:

'What sort of city shall we be?' isn't a question that most New Yorkers take time to answer in their course of their daily lives. It's a question that gets asked and answered at moments of disruption (blackout? block party!) and deeply, urgently in moments of tragedy...

[Y]ou truly become a New Yorker when the city seems more to you than your workplace and a collection of shops and restaurants, when you start caring about the city itself, beyond your daily route, outside of your neighborhood, about the city we were and the city we might become. You know you're a New Yorker when you know what kind of city we are...

927 Fifth Avenue board president Richard Cohen and his wife, Paula Zahn failed to understand the public, communal, and civic space that is the sine qua non of New York. They failed to understand that they, like all the rest of us, are guardians of this city first and foremost. And when something belongs to the city, as Pale Male and family so manifestly do, and they are treated so cavalierly, as Cohen and Zahn so manifestly did, the arrogance becomes untenable. And untenable arrogance has a way of meeting comeuppance in this city.

The outpouring of support for Pale Male has been incredible and it's moments like these (and essays like Suisman's) that remind and clarify for me why I love New York. And the good news? Today's New York Times reports, Co-op to Help Hawks Rebuild, but the Street Is Still Restless. Yay!

Also, a humorous examination of the price of Pale Male's perch at Curbed.

The joy of a nice knife

One of the things I realized while working at the restaurant on Nantucket was how dull my knives were at home. At Fifty-Six everyone's knives were razor sharp, and it made slicing and dicing nearly effortless, albeit dangerous. When I got home I got a stone and spent about an hour sharpening my two knives: an 8" chef's and a 4" paring, both from Henckels. (I have a few other knives, but I find I never use them. These two do the trick for all my home cooking needs.) Today's New York Times looks at knives and the trend for Japanese knives in, When a Knife Is the Gleam in a Cook's Eye.

There's a whole world of useless kitchen gadgetry out there, junk that will clutter your cabinets and ultimately make little difference in the quality of food you cook. But knives are an exception (another exception: pots/pans). Quality knives make all the prep jobs easier because they provide more control and cleaner cuts, and they're a pleasure to use. While they are expensive, they last forever and are a worthwhile investment. I bought my 8" in 1995 and have used it nearly every day since. My 4" was purchased in 1998.

As the gentleman says at the end of the Times article, "You know you've got the right knife when you're getting as much joy from preparing dinner as you are from eating it."

Keller on cooking and success

There's a great interview with my hero Thomas Keller at Epicurious.com. In particular, his musings on passion and community echo my feelings and experience with food. (Interview questions in bold):

One of the great things about bistros, and not just about bistros but about cooking and dining in general, is the sense of community. Do you feel that?

It's a real social interaction, whether you're cooking or whether you're eating. You have to feel comfortable in your environment. In the restaurant, we enjoy doing what we're doing together. That's really one of the wonderful things about being in a kitchen environment where there's a common vision and a common goal and a common respect for what you're doing. It's like nothing else, it really is.

And that passion translates to the food?

You have to be emotionally attached. I cook because it fulfills something inside of me, satisfaction, gratitude, making somebody happy. It's all wrapped up in those emotions, and eating should be the same. I understand in modern society we can't always be emotionally connected to what we're eating and what we're doing, but there are those moments when we have to sit back and appreciate it and say, "Okay, this is that moment where I'm just going to relax and have this event."

At the end, Keller closes with one of the best things I've ever heard:

"I think one of the true meanings of success is creating a memory for somebody."

Also included are menus, a cooking demo by Keller, and a video tour behind the scenes at Per Se all accessible from this page. I really need to start saving for a Per Se visit.

For all you hip-pained athletes

From the American Academy of Family Physicians comes this detailed publication on Hip Pain in Athletes. While it's obviously written for medical professionals (ones who recognize words like 'acetabulum' and 'femoral head'), I found it useful in preparing for my trip to the orthopedic specialist. I've had a nagging pain since before the marathon, nothing too severe so I just ran through it. Now that I've been back in NYC and sitting much more than before, the pain's gotten worse. So I finally broke down and went to the doctor. I've been laying off the running, except for my races, and hopefully today will get to the bottom of the issue. I think (hope) it's just inflammation that will pass with ice, rest, and NSAIDs.

Clarified (Brown) Butter

1 lb. unsalted high-quality butter*
Glass bottle
Speed pourer

* I prefer organic with no growth hormones or anti-biotics

Brown Buttered Brussels Sprouts

1 pt. fresh Brussels sprouts
clarified (brown) butter
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

On the glory of Brussels sprouts

Brussels sproutsI have been on a Brussels sprouts tear lately (see You do learn something new every day from earlier this month), eating them as much as possible. As is my way when I find something I love, I eat it non-stop until I almost grow sick of it. Luckily the season for the item usually passes before the damage is complete, and then I have nearly a year to recover. Case in point: bread salad. But I digress! Back to the sprouts...

I've been preparing them at home in my skillet with brown butter, and I've thought them quite delicious. Imagine my surprise when I was out dining earlier this week at one of Manhattan's nicest restaurants and I was served Brussels sprouts with a dish -- and they were prepared just as I do them at home! That's given me the confidence to share my recipe with all you Brussels sprouts fans out there. Presenting Megnut's Brown Buttered Brussels Sprouts.

For those that aren't fans, here is the sheet music to We Hate Brussels Sprouts. Perhaps you can write a lyrical accompaniment?

The glory of frying

I can't say I've really tried much frying at home, but according to the New York Times Minimalist, Mark Bittman, "[f]rying lends itself to home cooking..It does everything you want cooking to do. It makes food crisp, tender, gorgeous and golden." He says so in his article, Hot, Sizzling Temptations, Freshly Fried at Your Stove.

Sadly, we've been trained to deny our love, even become ashamed of it, because frying is supposed to be unhealthy. And, the naysayers contend, it's a pain, it's expensive, and it's messy.

Hogwash. Try it once, and you'll be hooked. And on your second try you will come pretty close to mastering the art of frying.

Be sure to check along the sidebar for four frying recipes. I want to make the onion rings, yum!

NYC Marathon 2005

I finished the NYRR Holiday Four Mile Run (38:31) this morning and with it completed nine qualifying NYRR races, which means: I've got guaranteed entry into the 2005 NYC Marathon. Yay! As I said to my friend Adriana this morning after the race, "Obviously something's wrong with us if we're waking up to run in 32° weather every weekend for the purpose of gaining entry into a marathon!" Of course, I mean "wrong" in the good sense! I've already got two marathons and one half-marathon scheduled for 2005. Now let's hope my hip injury heals in time.