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Archive for March, 2009

Hop and Ride (aka Park and Ride)

Posted by eemilla on March 29, 2009

I am glad to hear that the Asheville Transit System as started a park and ride program, especially at the Biltmore Square Mall with all of those empty parking spaces.  I am keeping my fingers crossed for Sunday service to come next.

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Festival Season begins

Posted by eemilla on March 27, 2009

We are starting it out with The French Broad River Festival.  I was digging the line up, then my honey said it was only sixty dollars for the early bird tickets!  I love the campground up there, and we are definitely planning to hit the hot tubs.  Another plus is Bearly Edible; I can’t wait to wolf down some pesto mozzadilla and $1 grilled cheese.

A few weekends prior, we will warm up with Asheville’s Earth Day celebration.  Its free and could involve no driving if the bus service has extended hours, and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and Laura Reed & Deep Pocket will be there, for free!

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Victory Garden and Mountaintop Removal

Posted by eemilla on March 27, 2009

It has been a good week for environmental awareness and stewardship.  I was thrilled that Mrs. Obama broke ground on the first victory garden (in lieu of the Axis I think of unsafe food and corporate agriculture) since Mrs. Roosevelt; sixty years is too long to wait.  While I applaud the thought of it being organic, its proximity to swaths of golf course looking lawns might render the harvest much less than organic.  One step at a time, though, and I really am quite pleased.

The garden was the cherry, but the sundae came later.  On Tuesday announced that the EPA will stop issuing permits for mountaintop removal mining.  I have never encountered one of these wastelands, but the pictures are eerie.  Although this stops new mines, there are still existing mines.  Ashevegas mentioned this earlier this month.  Representatives Pricey Harrison, Phillip Haire, Susan Fisher, and Julia Howard are the primary House sponsors for H340 (Senator Steve Goss is sponsoring the sister bill, S341).  I hope you will join me in taking the time to say thanks as well as question the missing Senators Nesbitt and Apodaca and the missing Representatives.

Thank you!

Susan.Fisher@ncleg.net

Julia.Howard@ncleg.net

Steve.Goss@ncleg.net

Those that have yet to sign on:

Martinn@ncleg.net

toma@ncleg.net

Don.East@ncleg.net

Sarah.Stevens@ncleg.net

Cullie.Tarleton@ncleg.net

Shirley.Randleman@ncleg.net

Phillip.Frye@ncleg.net

Joe.Queen@ncleg.net

Mitchg@ncleg.net

John.Snow@ncleg.net

Roger.West@ncleg.net

 

To toot our own horn, we are thirty weeks into our one car household adventure.  Admittedly my wonderful husband deserves the bulk of the credit as he sacrifices the most sleep and convenience.  However, I am stoked that the bus stop we use is finally getting a sidewalk, so I will have to ride the bus more to enjoy it.

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Save the Date: 2 April 2009, Transit Master Plan preview 4-7p in the Civic Center Banquet Room

Posted by eemilla on March 26, 2009

****Update per Mariate Echeverry, interim transit manager, this meeting is going to have a presentation at the beginning. Then the public can review the proposals in detail. 

 

Please plan to drop by for the Transit Master plan preview.  I assume this will be like the last meeting to encourage more visitors to drop in at their leisure.  My fingers are crossed for Sunday and more evening service.

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Good-bye Gabrielle’s

Posted by eemilla on March 22, 2009

I only had the pleasure of dining at Gabrielle’s one time, and it was one of the best meals ever.  We found our favorite bargain sparkling wine there, and the service was the best I had experienced since a trip to Sunset Key in 2001.  The ambiance was romantic and lovely, with the solid wood decor and the candlelight sparkling on the white draped tables.  Although Gabrielle’s is moving to another site on the property, I feel it is tainted by the arson.  Hopefully, unlike the last arson there, this one will be solved, and the blight will be cleared.

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Sunday Brunch at The Corner Kitchen

Posted by eemilla on March 22, 2009

To round out our week of extravagance, we enjoyed brunch at The Corner Kitchen, and it was enjoyable.  I was hoping to have more to choose from on the benedict or vegetarian side, but I was amazed by the grits.  I love buttery, salty grits, and these grits were perfect in both areas.  Neither flavor took over the dish, and when I added pepper with my heavy hand it was as if I made them myself.  Bravo to our server, Katie, for asking me to taste the grits before she be brought over the extra butter I requested; I have had all too many servings of bland and boring or over salted and/or too heavily creamed grits, but I appreciate her thoughtfulness and knowledge of the food.  

My honey ordered the biscuit bennie, and he was satisfied with it; however, after he was done he did regret eating the ham.  His plate had a sliver of pineapple and a strawberry, which thankfully was not mentioned on the menu.  Hollandaise is my favorite piece of brunch, so I do always regret not being able to order some take on the benedict.   I had bagel and lox.  The bagel was not in the league of  Buddha Bagels; it was okay for a base, but it lacked the crustiness juxtaposed with a tender inside that makes a bagel a bagel.  It was served with a nice wedge of cream cheese, a solitary slice of red onion, some tomato slices, and a few ounces of smoked salmon.  The fish portion was balanced, but it needed more bite from the onion to counter the creamy richness.  Raw tomatoes at this time of year are not my cup of tea, so I did not touch them.

As I was the driver last night, I was able to enjoy a few beverages for brunch.  Mimosas are my stand-by unless I know the bloody mary mix is great, but I decided to try the peach bellini.  I had a difficult time finding the peach flavor, so I enjoyed a mimosa nonetheless.  With my meal I moved onto the stronger stuff in the form of my favorite summer time drink, a dark and stormy (half ginger ale and half dark rum in a highball glass with ice and a lime twist).  I love ginger and dark rum, but there is also the sentimental associations: I first ran into this drink at the oh so wonderful Grand Cafe in 2006 when we recklessly waited to decide where our post wedding lunch would be held.  Katie, our wonderful server and the bartender, wasn’t familiar with this drink so I gave her the recipe (omitting the highball serving glass), and she advised they make their own ginger syrup.  The first one she made with half Meyers, one quarter ginger syrup, and one quarter soda water.  I much preferred the drink without the soda water.  On another note, they have the drink my husband as been searching high and low for since last summer: the John Daly.  Although The Corner Kitchen calls it a High Tea, they are the same : one shot of vodka, one part iced tea, and one part lemonade garnished with a lemon wedge.

Speaking of the bar, it is a great place to sit when they have a wait for tables.  It is a wide expanse so there is plenty of room for your drink, plate, silverware, and elbows.  The sun porch area is the worst place to sit at a table because it has to have the highest number of tables per square foot, and the bar is noisy because of its proximity to the open kitchen (in the small space it also seemed to act as a cut through to the dish pit).  If you do call to make reservations ask to sit on the right side or upstairs.  If you have a party of six or more, you will likely sit in the nook across from the kitchen.  The patio is nice to dine in if the weather permits, but you only want the sunroom on a slow night, unless you wish to dine at the bar.

My favorite thing about the dinner menu is that it changes every week, and although many of the same items recur it shows they care.  The brunch menu we dined on is the same from fall 2008, so I guess most of the energy goes to the dinner menu changes.  The wine list has a good number of by the glass options, and the prices are nice too (even if you buy the bottle).  For example, one of our favorite sparkling wines for under $30 is the Cremant de Bourgogne, and The Corner Kitchen sell it for $28 (compare that to the overpriced The Marketplace who sells the split for $31 and the full bottle at $43).

Although we didn’t participate in the Chef’s Corner promotion, it was a great idea, and we were glad to support them on a normal business day.

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Rezaz

Posted by eemilla on March 20, 2009

Earlier this week we went by Rezaz to check out the menu updates (although neither of us ordered from the tasting menu). The primary color paintings I recall from when they first opened are still hanging on the walls, but they have also partitioned off more areas to create space from the hectic energy of the door and host stand as well as the corridor between the kitchen, end of the bar, and the Enoteca.  They have silvery bead curtains employed in the sectioning off, and I couldn’t decide if I liked them.  The interior was cozy with the low lighting, but it was quite sad to see the back half of the restaurant darkened and curtained off, but they are probably just trying to reduce their carbon footprint, right?  We arrived earlier than our reservation, which was certainly not needed for their slow Tuesday, although we saw a few tables come in after 8:30 or so.

The menu is divided into soups/salads, small, big, and bigger with the big and bigger sections containing items that could be ordered as either a full order or half order.    I recognized the caesar salad, arugula salad, butternut squash ravioli, and of course the spiced lump crab cake  from past years’ menus, but with the additional smaller plates there were enough vegetarian options to keep me happy.  The pre-order bread is the only thing that I don’t mind not changing, although the fruited loaf was less fruity than I recall.  I ordered the arugula salad because I am a sucker for pears, good cheese, and arugula, and my husband went with his first favorite, the crab cake.  As is our standard, we traded half way through, but with one bite we both agreed what we had ordered was better than what the other had ordered.  While the awesome tomato jam is still with the crab cake, the crab that used to really shine was a bit hidden beneath the heavy breading and delicious jam.  My salad was made nicely, with a good smattering of goat cheese and balsamic vinegar reduction over the tender arugula, and the poached pears were perfectly sweet and spiced.  For his entree he went with the sea scallops and lemony risotto, and I went with the cremini rotolo.  Craving risotto as he does, he wanted more, but he said it was a wonderfully lemony and creamy accompaniment to the four diver scallops; he also enjoyed the green beans, but I don’t recall how he described them.  My entree was a bit boring, but I guess that is what I should except ordering a ricotta and cremini pasta dish.  The portion was filling, and again the tomato sauce was great.  The spinach was cooked just enough to make it was brilliant green and warm.  The highlight was the chocolate ganache torte with red wine reduction and cranberry sorbet.  The reduction and the torte were a lovely pairing, and I loved the color and texture of the sorbet; however, it was a bit over tart even with the richness of the torte.  I thought about the tiramisu, but after being spoiled by La Caterina Trattoria I didn’t want to venture down that path.  I also thought a bit over the pots de creme and the creme brulee, but neither exactly fit the bill.  I do venture sometimes away from chocolate, but not often (usually only for crepes Suzette or my aunt’s pound cakes).

My honey was the designated driver so I had all the drinking fun.  I decided to have a moderate two drinks; one being a glass of scotch (I guess this probably should not have been imbibed with a meal to be properly enjoyed, but I did take it neat), and one glass of maderia with dessert.  Scotch ordering is reserved for restaurants because I don’t have to pay fifty plus for one fifth of liquor, and as such I don’t really know what I like.  The only single malt options were Glenlivet and Macallan, and I ordered the Glenlivet because it was a name I recognized.  When the bill arrived I was charged for the Macallan, but my server assured me I had consumed Glenlivet (and corrected the bill by three dollars).  I ordered the maderia because I have never noticed it before, and I like port.  I was pleased with the maderia, but my first whiff reminded me of cooking sherry.  I would have ordered a yummy Gran Marnier, but I really couldn’t stomach the ten dollar price tag (plus I am not certain it would have tasted a good as the maderia with the torte and the red wine reduction).

Overall, we were both pleased with the service (overall good but overbearing right after we were sat and absence when we wanted the check; the buser kept our waters full and the table cleared of used dishes), atmosphere, food, and its presentation.  The menu tops out at $20 with plenty of options well below that, and I apologize for not paying attention to the wine list.  We will certainly be back, and hopefully next time the bus driver will be our designated driver.

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Quick and Simple

Posted by eemilla on March 13, 2009

 

With the weather roller-coaster, I decided to make miso soup to help us stave off colds.  Miso soup is my chicken noodle as I hate chicken and the memories of overcooked, bloated noodles that haunted the stuff from the cans.  Not only is miso tasty, cheap (16 oz tub for about seven dollars at the Co-op, but for about eight cups of soup I only used two tablespoons), and super healthy but it works wonders by turning a few veggies and some watery stock into a simply satisfying entree way beyond soup.  Unlike other soups, miso is so flavorful that you really only need to warm the stock rather than cook it down.  For an accompaniment (and just be sure that I could eat left over soup for the next few days) I also cooked up some brown rice then sauteed some garlic and kale in sesame oil and garnished it with sesame seeds and peanuts.

Miso Soup

  1. Press and drain one half pound of firm or extra firm tofu, then dice or you can crumble it
  2. Peel and chop one medium onion in a medium to fine dice
  3. Peel and dice three to five cloves of garlic
  4. Peel and cut one medium to large carrot into thin discs or half moons
  5. Cut three pieces of kombu (assuming pieces are 1-2 x 5-8 inches); I have also used a few sheets of wakame cut into one inch squares
  6. Heat a tablespoon or two of sesame oil over medium-high heat
  7. Add the onions and tofu (be careful of the oil splatter from the wet tofu) and cook until tofu has browned a bit
  8. Add the garlic, carrots, and kombu then pour three cups of veggie stock plus one cup of water into the pan
  9. Bring the stock to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for five to ten minutes or just enough to heat the liquid and soften the kombu (if using the wakame don’t add it until after the stock has boiled)
  10. While the stock is heating, thin two tablespoons of miso paste (I usually use red or chickpea) with water to give it the consistency of creamy salad dressing
  11. Remove the stock from the heat and temper the miso paste with some of the soup; the soup should not be too hot as you will kill the probiotics and reduce miso’s health benefits
  12. Once the soup is serving temperature, combine the miso liquid and the soup then serve
  13. This stores fine in the refrigerator, but I have never been able to keep it for more than a few days.  When reheating be sure not to boil the soup.

 

miso soup

miso soup

 

 

Monday was on the other end of the temperature scale when my husband made his meal plan and did his shopping so he grabbed arugula, a pear, walnuts (which also went into the pesto), and yummy, stinky bleu cheese.  I think the red onion got lost, but he reduced some balsamic vinegar which I whipped into a nice, sweet dressing with olive oil.  Not being a fan of the walnuts, I supplemented the crunchiness factor with sunflower seeds.  It was a classic bistro salad, and topped off with some coarsely ground pepper I wanted to germinate some arugula seeds and get them into some dirt.  Although this arugula was fine, it pales in comparison to the spicy yet freshly sweet stuff we harvested from last year’s victory garden before the rising temperature cooked the bitterness into it.  The pear was wonderfully ripe and sweet with that beloved grainy texture; with it being so out of season I can’t tell if my taste buds were being nostalgic.  Of course my favorite was the cheese; it had the creaminess of gorgonzola with the tangier bite of danish blue.

 

arugula, pear, and bleu salad

arugula, pear, and bleu salad

 

bleu close-up

bleu close-up

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Mike Luckovich

Posted by eemilla on March 12, 2009

Sometime in the late nineties in some print media, I first encountered a Mike Luckovich cartoon (I wanted to link to it, but I can’t find it.  It was picture of some elected officials hitting bongs with a heading of something like if hippies had used alcohol in the sixties).  It was funny and smart, and I love him still.  My favorite March cartoon is regarding alcohol sales.

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homemade truffles

Posted by eemilla on March 1, 2009

For the first time ever I made chocolate truffles.  I had been much intimidated about the prospect of making truffles, but really it was much easier and less time consuming than I ever imagined.  Although the results were not as good as the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, I was quite satisfied (as was my husband).  I followed Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for the most part; being lazy and not inclined to don latex gloves, I did not coat the truffles with the ganache or the cocoa powder.  I also treated them like drop cookies (partly my laziness but mostly not having tips and a pastry bag), and to reduce the trash, I used my silicone pastry mat in lieu of the parchment paper.  I made two rounds as I had enough leftover chocolate when I decided to skip the ganache coating; for my first round, I didn’t have enough freezer space so I hardened them in the refrigerator for about forty-five minutes or so, and on the second round I cleaned the freezer so the truffles could spend thirty minutes hardening off.  However, both times (even after spending a day stored in a storage container in the refrigerator) they melt just a bit on your fingers while being consumed.  Any thoughts would be welcome (although I guess I could just eat them whole).  I foresee many a future batch, and some will be flavored with Bailey’s and others with Jameson’s and maybe others will have creme de menthe.

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