Redneck First-World Problem

My friend Liza has this hilarious quip when she has a complaint that can hardly constitute a real complaint if you stop to think about how lucky we all are.  For example, if you have trouble scheduling your pedicure appointment, or if your iPad has trouble keeping a charge, she quips, “I know, first-world problem.”

Well, tonight I have a redneck first world problem.

Coverage of the Bristol night race has been bumped by a dumb NFL exhibition game! ARGH!

Do I blame ABC?  Or do I blame every single Titans football fan?

This is the Bristol night race, people!

ARGH!

Now, I realize that our country is currently suffering from a natural disaster.  So it hardly seems fair to complain that I can’t watch my NASCAR race.

But I’m still doing it.

UPDATE: Hey, this was my 200th post.  Exciting!  And I used it on a first-world rant.  About Nascar.

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improvising gone wrong

I have two restaurant reviews in the hopper (meaning that I’ve been to the restaurant, taken pictures, have what I want to say in my head (sort of) but haven’t written it yet), but this post is neither one of those.  Those are both going to be positive reviews – this review isn’t postive.  Tonight I went to a restaurant (but didn’t take pictures), and had such a funny bad experience I thought I’d post about it.

I went out tonight to Belcourt Taps & Tapas with a few friends and some friends of a friend.  The company was great, so I don’t regret going– I’m really happy my friend organized the little get-together.  We went to see a friend of hers play, and he was really good.  So company: good, music: good.

The restaurant was pretty crowded and it seemed the air conditioning had broken several days ago.  We ordered some appetizers, which were okay, not great, then a few of us ordered dinner.

I ordered the Mediterranean salad, which has the following description on the menu: Prosciutto wrapped goat cheese, mesclun greens, herb aioli, feta cheese, candied pecans, and a lemon pepper vinaigrette.  I  think it might have listed something else, but I forget (and the menu on their website is different, because it has olives listed and it didn’t have olives listed).   I’m not sure what makes that a Mediterranean salad — I guess the prosciutto and the feta cheese– but that’s besides the point.  It sounded good to me.

When the salad finally arrived (everything was taking a really long time, but we realized it was crowded and tried to give them the benefit of the doubt), it was a completely different salad.  The mesclun greens were there, as was the feta cheese, and two small pieces of prosciutto next to what seemed like it might be fried cheese.   Then there were big rings of red onion, tomatoes, and a heap of pickled okra.

Huh?

Pickled okra?  That screams Mediterranean to me.

When the waiter returned, I suggested that I had received the wrong salad.  Are you sure?  he asked.  I said yes– there was no herb aioli, there was okra, there was no candied pecans…

So he took it back to the kitchen, only to return with it, saying that they had run out of things and had to improvise.  Oh, and when he returned it, it had some regular pecans sprinkled on the top.  (Anyone who knows me knows that pecans aren’t my favorite.  I can do candied pecans.  But regular pecans?  I’ll pass.  So this whole situation was getting funnier and funnier.)

Improvised.  Thanks. What about this pickled okra that was now leaking its pickled juices all over my plate?

Call me crazy, but it would seem that if a restaurant was going to substitute okra for herb aioli, they might ask you first?  Maybe say, “Hm, we don’t seem to have half of the things for your salad.  Would you like something else?”

When one of the girls at the table suggested to the waiter that I be charged $5 for the house salad rather than the $9 for the Mediterranean, he agreed.  I was happy, because the salad was really small to be so expensive anyway.

Well, it didn’t happen, but I didn’t complain.  It was hot, I was tired, and I was ready to go.  So I paid my bill and went on my way (eventually —  it took a good ten to fifteen minutes to get our bills back after giving him our cards).

My advice?  Don’t go to Belcourt Taps and Tapas.  (Not that any of you probably will ever have the opportunity. Except my cousin who lives around the corner from it, and I’m not sure he even reads my blog, haha!)  Some of the other girls had a bad experience a few months earlier, and they had said at the beginning of the night that they were giving it a second chance.  Looks like they failed their second chance, too.

So there’s my restaurant review.  Belcourt Taps and Tapas: Where fried okra is a substitute for herb aioli and you pay $9 for a sub-par little salad!

Good thing the music and company were great!

Senna

On Friday night I went to see the documentary Senna, the story of Brazilian race car driver Ayrton Senna.  Many say that Ayrton was the greatest F-1 driver of all time.

I didn’t know much about Ayrton before the movie – although I knew the ending – so I was excited to learn more about him.  I suppose some people don’t think documentary-watching is a great way to spend your Friday night, especially a documentary about racing.  But I looked forward to it all week — dinner and a movie with friends, watching thrilling racing and the story of a hero?  Sounds good to me.

It was one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in quite some time.  After reading this article-“In Senna, a new formula for documentaries”– I can see why it never lost my attention  — the entire movie was free of “talking heads” that would take away from the action.  All the interviews were voiced-over live footage.

The entire movie was live footage — so you were with Ayrton the entire time.  Whether you were riding along with him and his parents on a boat in a home movie, sitting in a driver’s meeting, or on board in his race car in the rainy streets of Monaco, you were by his side during the whole movie.

And that’s what made the end of the movie so startling, even though you knew what was going to happen on that sixth lap of the San Marino Grand Prix.

On that day, May 1, 1994, thirty-four year-old Ayrton Senna, the hero of Brazil, three-time  F-1 champion, died from severe head injuries after his car struck a concrete barrier while he was leading the race.

No driver has died behind the wheel of an F-1 car since Ayrton’s death, thanks to increased safety measures.  But it gave me a lot of food for thought that night.  His death was actually the second death of the weekend– Roland Ratzenberger died the day earlier after a wreck during the final qualifying session.  (The nurses found a small Austrian flag in Ayrton’s sleeve — he had intended to unfurl it after winning the race to dedicate his win to Ratzenberger.)

His crash couldn’t fail to remind me of the racing accident I had witnessed in person, the death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001.  So I was forced to ask myself after the movie: is it worth it?

How can these men risk their lives in the name of sport?

It’s a question I’ve wrestled with before, particularly when people criticize my love for the sport.  I usually try to remind them that cheerleading has also been known to kill people, and that the cars we drive on the road are probably far less safe than these race cars.  But the thought remains — these men are putting their lives on the line — for the thrill of winning a race.

Ayrton Senna was a devout Catholic, and the movie doesn’t attempt to hide this — it actually emphasizes it.  He was a man who had given $400 million dollars to Brazilian children’s charities by the time of his death (and continues to give after his death, in the foundation set up by his sister).  He was a superhero in the eyes of his destitute countrymen who had given up hope.

At a time when Brazilians needed a hero, Ayrton Senna gave them hope.  He gave them someone to rally behind.  He gave them something to be proud of, something to look forward to, something to show the world.  And they responded to him.

The Brazilian government declared three days of mourning after his death, and over three million people lined the streets for his funeral.

So perhaps this man wasn’t putting his life on the line just for a sport.  Perhaps he was risking his life for his country.

It’s something I’m still trying to sort out in my head.

promised updates

Two updates on things I’ve mentioned but never followed through about:

1) The latest ice cream experiment was a success.  We had a “going away” lunch for one of my friends at work and she requested I make ice cream, so I made her tell me what flavor she wanted.  She decided on chocolate chip.  But I knew I couldn’t just make vanilla ice cream and add chocolate chips.

The only time I added chocolate chips was to my coffee ice cream, and I found that you couldn’t even taste the chocolate because it was so hard and cold.  I wanted to try to replicate the amazing chips you find in Graeter’s ice cream, because they’re soft and really chocolatey and incredible.

I thought that if I could melt the chocolate and then put it in the ice cream while it was freezing, so that the chocolate hardened with the ice cream, that might be part of the solution.  Then I found this recipe for stracciatella gelato, which is like chocolate chip only better– because the chocolate is more distributed through the gelato.

But I was a little weirded out by the recipe calling for gelatin and dry milk.

I went with it.

And I’m glad I did.  It definitely didn’t turn out like Graeter’s, but it was still really delicious.  I loved how the chocolate was in chunks and strips and was sort of all over the ice cream.  You could really taste it.  And while I love vanilla, I really liked that the ice cream base was really milk-y tasting and not as vanilla (which makes sense, since there was tons of cream/milk and barely any vanilla).  It would be a nice base to a lot of other ice creams — peanut butter, any candy mix, etc.

The ice cream wasn’t creamy enough for my liking.  I’m not sure if it’s because it called for more milk and less cream (ala gelato) or what part the gelatin might have played in the consistency.  So I’m looking forward to playing around with it and seeing what happens.

I do think I’ll be using that technique whenever I want to add chocolate chip/chunk/pieces to a recipe, though.  (can we say ‘mint chocolate chip’???)  It was delicious!!

No pictures this time.  I’ll make it again!

2) Awhile back, I asked my readers to pray to St. Frances of Rome for a special intention. And then I told you I’d update you when she answered my prayer.  Well, I wrote that in the evening of June 27 and she had answered my prayer by the morning!

My friend Megan and I are going to Rome!  When I asked for prayers, we were really struggling to find a place to stay within budget.   I was getting lots of “we have no room” emails from religious houses!  Thanks to prayers and the patroness of our trip, we are staying in the house of St Frances of Rome in Trastevere, which is now a religious house and open to pilgrims.  We’re so thrilled to be staying with her, next door to St. Cecilia’s, that we didn’t mind going a bit over our original budget.

I’m so excited about our trip that I try not to think about it too often.  And the crazy thing about our trip is that we don’t have any set plans. We have a night in Assisi and six days in Rome.  Other than that — we’re just eating, praying, and visiting old friends — St Cecilia, St Catherine, St Monica, St Peter…

I love to show people around the city — I love, love, love being a tour guide — but there’s going to be something really fun about just being.  We both studied over there, so we don’t have to rush around and see everything.  We can just be.  Yay!!

Roma, I’ve missed you!

Happy Birthday, Jill

Today is my lovely sister’s birthday– both are lovely, but today’s birthday belongs to that lovely one in the middle.

Look at how I’m imitating her.  Aren’t we adorable?

We didn’t always get along as well as that picture portrays.  In fact, she probably wanted to strangle me most of my young life.  Luckily, I think we’ve gotten past that stage.

Now we get along pretty well.  In fact, if I would have found a bottle last week that happened to contain a genie, one of my wishes would have been for Jill come here and celebrate her birthday with me this past weekend.  But I didn’t find a bottle, much less one with a genie.

So we had to celebrate it apart.  I tried to make up for it by sending her a fun birthday package (or two).

I love to give good gifts.  (You might remember that from this blog post.)  That’s usually pretty easy for Jill, because I know her pretty well.  One Christmas I was so disappointed with my lack of creativity in her gift (I forget what I gave her, but it was lame) that I tried to make it up to her a few months later and surprised her with a weekend visit.  I love giving gifts that are meaningful, and this birthday I was particularly happy with my meaningful gifts.

Some people would find it strange to receive a creamer in the shape of a cow for their birthday.  But I knew Jill would understand the reference to Bertie Wooster.  And in case she missed it, I made it obvious in the card I sent her.  Much to my surprise, the Bertie Wooster cow creamer incident actually came up in our conversation a few nights ago!  I had just mailed the package and almost died laughing as we had a perfectly normal conversation about the stories featuring the cow creamer, with Jill completely oblivious that her own personal cow creamer was on its way to her as we spoke!  What are the chances?  It put me at ease that she would understand the gift as soon as she opened it!

Jill has had more than one lousy birthday.  Growing up, Jill’s birthday always meant that school was around the corner.  It’s hard to look forward to your birthday when it means summer is over.  Then one year we “celebrated” Jill’s birthday by moving our sister Jen to Nashville.  Nashville in August?  Hot and humid.  Moving furniture into a condo?  Pretty terrible.  Then several years later, we spent the day in the car driving across the state of Ohio to come home for our grandfather’s funeral.  I’m telling you, she’s had some pretty less than enjoyable birthdays.

So here’s hoping today isn’t lousy.

Happy Birthday, Jill!

a daring experiment

I was asked to make ice cream for a little lunch we’re having for a friend tomorrow, and, in classic style, I’m trying a new recipe.

Why do I always do this?

All of my other recipes were pretty straight-forward.  Cream, milk, vanilla, sugar.

This one called for some special ingredients.  And on top of that, I want to try a little experiment with melted chocolate.

It’s in the machine now.  Stay tuned.

Next Food Network Star

I’m sitting here watching my guilty pleasure– the Next Food Network Star.  But it’s actually “guiltier” than that — it’s the one hour “reunion” special before the finale.  We’ve watched these people for the last few months, and now we’re watching a “reunion”???  Shouldn’t that word be reserved for people who have been apart for, say, several YEARS?

Anyway, I thought about “live-blogging” the finale, but I realized all I really want to say is:

Bobby Flay in a three-piece suit.

Awesome.

The end.