Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday I'm in Love

Live from Boston, my three picks for the week:

The Known World

I'm obsessed with this book. You know that feeling you get sometimes when you're so immersed in a novel that during the day, you jealously think of it sitting at home on your bedside table, and fantasize about leaving everything behind and running back home to it? (Wait, am I talking about a book?) Anyway, that's the feeling this book is giving me. If you're looking for an amazing story, give The Known World by Edward P. Jones a try.

Aphro Chic Business Card by Studio on Fire

Behold, some of the coolest business cards I've ever seen, from my perennial paper crush Studio on Fire. I've been thinking that if I went back to school or did freelance work, that'd be an excellent excuse to have some to-die-for letterpress calling cards made. Can you imagine carrying these beauties around every day? Can you imagine parting with them, though, as you give them away? Speaking of excuses... talk about a reason to love an afro. I mean seriously, isn't the logo just to die for? The silhouette? The typefaces? And then the print on the back? The edges in yellow? There's corresponding stationery, too, as if this wasn't enough. So given how amazing this design is, I had to go and check out the Aphro Chic Shop for myself. Is it possible that this woman is even cuter in person, jumping on a bed with her personalized shirt and handmade pillows, than in her glorious letterpressed silhouette? It is. Not Fair.

Gael Greene's Tweets

Many of you probably first got to know Gael Greene as "crazy hat judge" on Top Chef: Masters, but she's actually something of a legend, starting when she became the New York Magazine restaurant critic in 1968 and wore outrageous hats as disguises. Here's how David Kamp describes her in The United States of Arugula (a fantastic read, by the way): "Having gotten her start writing sex-and-the-single-gal pieces for Cosmopolitan and Ladies' Home Journal, Greene ... was inspired by the conversational style of Tom Wolfe and invented her own choppy, unhinged, status-obsessed style. Flaunting a saucy "food = sex" ethos , Greene ladeled on the suggestiveness, christening herself 'The Insatiable Gourmet' and turning even a trip to the lavish but unglamourous Jewish grocery Zabar's into an orgiastic reverie." There's much more, but you should really go read that book (and go read Greene's book too, by the way, where she describes a steamy night with Elvis - seriously!). At any rate, Gael Greene has a Twitter account, and she is endlessly amusing to me. See the above tweet, and also this little nugget to see why.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I'm heading back to one of my favorite cities this morning: the land of chowdah and beeah, more history than you can throw a history book at, and my house of baseball worship. So many fantastic memories on those perfectly walkable streets! Boston is the city where I realized how much I love cities, so it's only fitting that I'll be conferencing there for four days with a bunch of other transit/land use nerds. And bonus: on Friday night I'm welcoming my opposite-marriage partner to town! (Because chilling solo until I'm done talking streetcars is way more fun for him than chilling solo for an entire weekend in an empty apartment.)

To Beantown!

Boston is a town of history, and my favorite thing to do there is to immerse myself in that history. I was the Boston resident who really did walk the Freedom Trail all the time, really did go to every museum, and really did spend time in the "burying grounds" (not cemeteries), taking geeky pleasure in recognizing the names on the obscure graves, not just the ones on the visitor map. Nerd paradise, this city.

I worked in Faneuil Hall through much of college and still secretly love working retail. Boston also hooked me on city blocks that juxtapose old buildings with new.

Ahh, Newbury Street. Scary to think I could do more actual shopping than window-shopping there now, given that I'm no longer resorting to selling my CDs for going-out money every week.

I was on the freshman crew team, and though I wasn't tall enough or competitive enough to be great, I really loved getting out on the Charles River in the morning. Such a water girl... even if it means 5 a.m. wakeup calls.

Fenway Park!! This painting is from JRWStudios and is totally on my wish list. I never really knew baseball until I got to Boston, and once I got a taste, I was hooked. The 2004 World Series will always be one of my most precious memories. This place is just magic to me.

Boston's also where I discovered what a difference real transit makes to cities and citizens' way of life. Hopping on the T, jumping off wherever I felt like it, and walking the city end to end. Kind of my perfect Saturday back in the day... (when it wasn't baseball season, of course)

Oh wait... Did I mention that I'm visting during the prettiest time of the year?

(images shamelessly ganked from Google unless otherwise noted)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Getting dirty in the Big D

I tend not to focus much on my professional interests here, but that's only because being an over-sharer about work stuff is awkward for everyone involved. In the broadest sense, what I like most about my line of work is that it's about place, how people interact and move through a space, and what our communities say about who we are (and vice versa). All of those reasons are why this article from the UK's Financial Times struck to the core of so many of my nerdy interests. (My friends are freaking out right now: "Maggie is reading the Financial Times?!" Don't worry, T brought this article home to me from his office. I'm still barely a capitalist.)

In "The Dallas Syndrome," (which was blandly renamed "Dallas' New Cultural Buildings" in the web version), the fantastically-named Edwin Heathcote cuts to the chase regarding Dallas' sterilized version of urbanity. The brand new Arts District buildings, he points out, are "an attempt to give the city a soul." The reviews of the new Wyly Theater and Winspear Opera House fare pretty well here, just as they did in the New York Times review. The real problem, though, is the context of the buildings. The place component. The people component.  

Confession: Planners like to see ourselves as the "we" against architects' perennial "I." No building exists in a vacuum. No amount of money can make a space work if it's not an organic place where people want to gather (I'm looking at you, Victory Park). A great building within a less-than-great place doesn't make the place great. It makes it a lonely building.

Wyly Theater

 The article opens with Rem Koolhaas, the architect of the brand new Wyly Theater, telling the audience at the ribbon-cutting, "Dallas is the epicentre of the generic." Cue the nervous laughter from the audience. But as our loquacious British narrator explains to us, Koolhaas is right.

Winspear Opera House

From Heathcote:
Although Los Angeles is often dismissed (and misunderstood) by Europhiles as a city with no centre and no heart, Dallas would be a better example. Its central business district is a melange of defunct US tropes: mirror-glazed blank-slab offices, massive multi-storey carparks, conference centres that have the size and aspect of walled cities. But they have their own interest. These are the archetypes of modernity; any visit to the Middle or Far East shows that this is the architecture of today. Koolhaas is right: Dallas, despite its failure as an urban model, remains the exemplar for corporate cities in hot climates.The Arts District is the cultural version of that city. Here star projects sit in self-satisfied isolation, unrelated to each other, unconcerned. Valet parking attendants ensure that patrons arrive and depart without being contaminated by any sense of urban life. The two new buildings try, and broadly fail, to address the problems. Yet they are far from failures in themselves.

Heathcote points out that at least with the Opera House, the work was not site-specific. The red-glazed building could have been placed anywhere. Its relationship to the street is designed so that pedestrians can look into the space and feel a part of it. Only in the Arts District, there's no one milling around outside to take a peek.
Both the new Dallas buildings function well; they do what was asked of them and provide genuinely world-class facilities by star architects. The problem lies more with the conception of the Arts District. Within minutes of the end of each inaugural performance, the only public animation of the surrounding spaces was a mass of shivering patrons waiting for their cars to be returned. And then nothing. It was all over. If these buildings are supposed to be part of an effort to “regenerate” or “reconnect” the city centre, they have failed. Dallas is indeed special because it is so generic. Both buildings reflect on this. Koolhaas’s is critical and consequently compelling, Foster’s is didactic in its attempts to Europeanise the cultural quarter through an architectural style that is itself massively influenced by US corporate modernism. The Dallas Arts District will never be a part of a conventional city in the European sense: it is closer to the existential isolation of the convention centre or the starchitect-designed airport. It is both unique and unsettling, a glimpse of a future in which architecture and culture are imported to save a city from itself.

Make no mistake: I'm glad the Arts District and these new buildings exist; I just see them as the beginning, not the grand finale. What I like most about the challenge facing Dallas is that the glittery buildings are done. The corporate sponsorships are lined up. That is, after all, what Dallas does best: setting its sights on an expensive, magical answer to a problem and lining up the money to pay for it (see: Convention center hotel, Trinity River project). That high-dollar response is the way Dallas has done its business for decades. What needs to come next is filling in the gaps with a variety of small projects. Yet that is also precisely what Dallas does terribly: getting to the heart of the how and why places live or die. It's grungy work: contamination, as Heathcote termed it. It involves people. It involves, uh-oh, planning. It involves interaction. But the dirty work is the lifeblood that can transform a cold rendering into a pumping, beating place.

The way out of Dallas' perpetually sterile existence, the way to start building a soul in a city that tries so hard to construct new monuments over the makings of one, is in its people. Great neighborhoods don't have much of anything to do with how shiny their biggest buildings are. Great neighborhoods are about the variety of what's there and how those elements all relate to one another, how people get there and move around within the space, and how they feel doing it. The good news is that there is potential on the horizon: a new pedestrian park that will (finally) cover up part of a terribly placed highway and connect Uptown with Downtown; a modern streetcar that will go places people want to go, in a way they want to get there; more people living downtown all the time.

All of these elements could help "dirty up" downtown in exactly the right way. Getting them right is tougher work than writing a check for a new building, but it's the kind of work that Dallas desperately needs to do. It's time to roll up those sleeves and get started.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All pigged out.

Ahh, NC. I'm back in Dallas recovering from a fantastic weekend, working furiously toward a big work deadline, and preparing to jet off to Boston for a conference on Thursday. Whew! A few little tidbits before I dive back into work:
  • My sister, brother-in-law, and I decided that instead of taking Friday night off to rest up for the Saturday bonanza, we'd prepare dinner for 9 instead (oh, if only I'd realized how precious my energy would become the next day!). My sister-in-law drove down from DC for the weekend, and it was fun creating a menu that could accommodate her meat-less and dairy-less ways. Huge thanks to my brother-in-law for letting an intruder invade his kitchen, and big thanks to everyone for the huge laughs. We fixed up a spread of Garlic basil chicken, Apple and chestnut stuffing, Roasted butternut squash, Roasted brussel sprouts, Olive oil glazed potatoes, Butternut squash and pumpkin bisque, and Pumpkin gooey cake squares for dessert. My huge victory was making brussel sprouts my way for my skeptical sister and mom, who just as I predicted, both loved them!

  • I have the cutest niece and nephew EVER! They are total delights.

  • Who says you can't throw a successful pig pickin' for 90 people when it rains and the pig catches on fire?!

  • We invite pretty much the same crowd every year, and this year there were kids running around everywhere and babies on every other lap. In case there was any doubt that some of us are procreating...

  • Trevor and I prepared five crock pots worth of my mom's famous mac 'n cheese for the pig pickin'. Because we ran out of space downstairs, three crock pots were hooked up in the master bathroom. Mmmm.... bathroom mac 'n cheese!

  • Official pig pickin' spread: the pig (of course), my uncle's "wash pot chicken stew" (made in my great-grandmother's actual huge wash pot), collards, stewed potatoes, mac 'n cheese, baked beans, cole slaw, and an entire dining room table full of desserts that everyone brought. Ridiculous goodness!

  • By the time I finally sat down on Saturday night, I thought my legs and feet were going to explode with pain - we'd been running around like crazy people since 8 that morning. Also, I was too tired to be coherent and be my usual engaged self when talking to my crew of high school friends. At least three-week-old Jackson didn't mind my fatigue...

  • By the time all the dishes were done and the place pulled back together in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I think my parents, Trevor, and I felt like absolute machines. Beaten-down machines, but still... quite the accomplishment.

  • How fun to take two Connecticut natives (both wearing plaid!) to the NC Fair. We spun and flipped on rides, we ate, we gawked, we searched in vain for the chocolate-covered bacon... So. Much. Fun. (even with missing the pig races!)

As always, there's never, ever enough time to truly catch up with everyone. But that's why we're trying to move closer to home. Trying!

Alright, no more daydreaming... back to work!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Homesick no more

By the time you see this post, I will be in The Homeland. The homeland of good friends, good food, and good family, including this guy:

 Yeah, I know I'm handsome

The hottest invitation in town? That would be this one:

Rain, rain, stay AWAY!

And don't forget this little event, either:

I leave you with this poem from the utterly amazing Cornbread Nation 2: The United States of Barbecue. I can never say enough about this series from the Southern Foodways Alliance. This one explores barbecue in every way possible, through the most interesting anthropological, social, cultural, and political perspectives. What it comes down to is, it makes me homesick. No need to be homesick this weekend, though.

To family, history, tradition, and the meaty stuff that holds it all together:

Barbecue Service
by James Applewhite

I have sought the elusive aroma
Around outlying cornfields, turned corners
Near the site of a Civil War surrender.
The transformation may take place
At a pit no wider than a grave,
Behind a single family's barn.
These weathered ministers
Preside with the simplest of elements:
Vinegar and pepper, split pig and fire.
Underneath a glistening mountain in air,
Something is converted to a savor: the pig
Flesh purified by far atmosphere.
Like the slick-sided sensation from last summer
A fish pulled quick from a creek
By a boy. Like breasts in a motel
With whiskey and twilight
Now a blue smoke in memory.
This smolder draws the soul of our longing.

I want to see all the old home folks,
Ones who may not last another year.
We will rock on porches like chapels
And not say anything, their faces
Impenetrable as different barks of trees.
After the brother who drank has been buried,
The graveplot stunned by sun
In the woods,
We men still living pass the bottle.
We barbecue pigs.
The tin-roofed sheds with embers
Are smoking their blue sacrifice
Across Carolina.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

NPR, my beacon of sanity

I can't remember a time I didn't listen to National Public Radio. My fierce fandom is nearly entirely due to my father, who is as hardcore an NPR listener as they come. When my dad is home alone, he'll either have NPR playing on every radio in the house or have it playing on his hand-held radio, which he carries around the house with him. Now that is a fan. The voices - recognizable and reassuring - are instantly calming and grounding to me. The conversation is relevant and piquant, refreshingly free of the mindless chatter or shrieking stereotypes that clutter up television. And if pressed, I must admit that no jingle makes me happier than the chords announcing "All Things Considered." NPR is how I begin my day, how I like to fill my day, and how I like to make the transition from work to me-time. NPR even made it into our wedding vows. Is that more or less fanatical than carrying around a hand-held radio?

It's NPR pledge week this week, as all of you regular listeners are already aware. As much as we always know that NPR only exists with listener (and not government or commercial) support, we also know this: more than ever, NPR rises above the fray of broadcast journalism. So put your money where your ears, head, and heart are. Every dollar counts.

Have you pledged your local NPR station yet?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More of me, over at EADL

I'm a busy bee this week... ten days of work crammed into a four-day week, but I'm definitely not complaining. On Thursday night I'm heading up to the homeland for a weekend festival of family, friends, food, and fair rides. (I do love alliteration.)

In the meantime, I'm debuting over at Elizabeth Anne Designs Living as one of their new bloggers. My first post contains this work of Photoshop brilliance:

(I know, my skills are daunting.)

Go and check out the full story here: Next Stop Wonderland. And in the meantime, happy worker bee buzzing to you!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday I'm in Love

It's beautiful outside today, just Fall perfection. It's hard not to be happy and choose three things to be in love with on days like this, even if you are battling the effects of an irresponsible Thursday night bar binge with old friends (ahem). Here, then, are my three tokens of love from the week:

Thursday Night Bar Binge Recaps of our Wedding

There are few things that make me happier than hanging out with a group of friends who attended our wedding and hearing superlatives like "best" and "most" tossed around so freely. I don't think I'll ever stop loving how much fun folks had at our 'lil beach party. The hilarious stories ("...when they were naked in the fish pond"), the raucousness ("which night of drinking games was that?"), the injuries (two people now carry around actual scars from our wedding), the requests for more (we're already on notice for needing to recreate the beach house party scene for our first anniversary)... Just so much happy goodness.

Blood Oranges

I've been obsessed with blood oranges this week. First, look at these things... I challenge you to name a more beautiful fruit. The color is amazing to me. I love squirting a wedge of blood orange into a glass of seltzer and seeing that dark purple juice come out and tinge the drink pink. I love the taste - not as bright as your typical orange, somehow murkier and more mysterious. I love the difference between a blood orange in my Old Fashioned versus a regular orange. I should branch out with my cocktails and start making blood orange mimosas or margaritas. Not to mention Grilled Oysters with Blood Orange and Ginger, Fregola and Blood Orange Salad with Arugula, and Blood Orange Crostini with Blood Orange and Black Pepper Marmalade.Yum! (PS: Have I mentioned one of my favorite shower goodies is also blood orange-themed?)

Colin Hay

The first thing that T and I ever agreed upon was music. Through all our feisty debating and ill-concealed "contemp or chemistry?" moments in the beginning, music was the one thing that didn't need any hemming and hawing. An early conversation about songs that captured our level of commitment phobia included Colin Hay's acoustic version of "Overkill," a song that was awesome in the early '80s but is outright beautiful when you take away the '80s beats and the rest of the Men at Work. We're going to see Colin Hay at the Granada on Sunday night, and I'm having a full-circle moment with this song in advance. In honor of TGIF, here's a flashy '80s video of "Overkill." And in honor of Sunday, let me just say that I love how well I sleep these days, and how faraway those ghosts Mr. Hay sings about are now.

Happy Fall weekend, everyone!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kitchen > Office

While I support the bigger picture of what I get paid to do every day, the minutiae of those days can sometimes be completely uninspiring. (Isn't this the case with so many of us? Can you imagine how much more dynamic the world could be if we were all doing something we truly loved?) Anyway... I'm lucky enough to have the sort of job that allows me to work from home occasionally. In between meetings, I can just as easily write and edit from home, and I tend to be much happier there. I went home today around lunch time - sick of the office, annoyed with everyone, in need of some inspiration - and I set about finding some. With a stack of papers to edit on the counter and an FDR documentary filling the background, I set out to make a lunch using the random ingredients abandoned in our unstocked fridge. No two odds and ends of produce really went together, save for mushrooms and scallions. Hmm. I tinkered and fiddled and came up with this little dish, big on flavor and packed with nutrition. I probably won't make it the same way again, but that's the beauty of these little creations - they suit the moment. And after this small bowl of success, I was ready to get back to work. Sans extreme annoyance.

This is not a pretty quinoa dish, but I promise it tastes a lot better than it looks.

Green Curry Quinoa

  • 1 cup quinoa (I have both red and traditional quinoa on hand; today I used red), rinsed
  • 1/2 container mushrooms (with better mushrooms, this would've been better, but Central Market 'free with purchase of spinach' buttons were all I had), chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 bunch scallions, diced
  • 1 tablespoon green curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  •  1.5 cups chicken broth

Once the oil is hot, sauté the scallions with a pinch of salt. A minute or so later, add the mushrooms and another pinch of salt and pepper. Once the mushrooms are soft, add the green curry paste and mix it into the vegetables, cooking together for another minute. Add the rinsed quinoa and chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and softly simmer until the liquid has been absorbed, 15-20 minutes. Once the quinoa is ready, turn off the heat and the dish sit for five minutes or so.

This would be yummy topped with a dollop of soft goat cheese, if you have it. (Alas, I didn't.)

PS: If you're looking for more quinoa inspiration, you've got to try my all-time favorite quinoa dish (use standard, not red): Lemon Quinoa With Asparagus and Feta.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Honoring Gourmet, Lowcountry-style

There's been so much hand-wringing the last two weeks since Conde Nast announced it was shutting down Gourmet. I mourned and railed against the decision here and here, and was by no means alone - nearly every one of my favorite blogs has touched on it in some way in the last two weeks. Last week, the blog A Mingling of Tastes came up with a more proactive approach to mourning, inviting everyone to make a favorite Gourmet recipe and post it online. Next week, we'll peek into everyone's kitchens and watch the beloved magazine's legacy in action. So here's my offering to Gourmet. Why don't you create one, too? You have until Friday, October 16 to submit your post to Julie - get cooking!

As I wrote about here, it's the charges that Gourmet was too elitist to make it in a "30 minutes or less" world that have grated on my nerves like no other. So many of the Gourmet recipes that I love are easy to prepare and composed simply, allowing fresh ingredients and flavors to really shine. In that light, I decided that my tribute dish should embody these features of Gourmet, the ones I loved most. This dish is a weeknight favorite around here; it's simple to prepare and in one bite takes me away to a different place. It's also a dish that symbolizes eating consciously and supporting the right kind of producer (in this case, fishermen), choices that Gourmet wrote about better than any other food publication. On to the dish!

Garlicky Black-Pepper Shrimp and Black-Eyed Peas
Gourmet, March 2009

For Black-Eyed Peas
4 bacon slices
4 scallions, chopped (I always add more)
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1/2 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
2 (15-oz) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained (I like Sylvia's Soul Food brand for canned black-eyed peas)
1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

For Shrimp
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined  
(As always, pay attention to where your food is coming from and who your purchase supports. If your state doesn't have its own fishing industry, make smart decisions about U.S. producers versus imports. Here in Dallas, I always buy wild shrimp from Louisiana fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico. Imported shrimp from Mexico has been decimating the Louisiana industry the last few years, which has struggled to stay afloat post-Katrina anyway. You may pay a bit more to buy your shrimp from the Louisiana Gulf, but your action directly impacts family fishermen who desperately need the support.)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine

For Eating
Crusty bread! Sourdough is perfect with this dish.

Make Black-Eyed Peas:
1. Cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until browned but not crisp. Transfer bacon to a plate, then tear into small pieces.

2. Cook scallions, carrot, celery, bell pepper, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, red pepper flakes, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in fat in skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are pale golden, about 10 minutes.

3. Add black-eyed peas and broth and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Make Shrimp:

4. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Season shrimp with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook shrimp with garlic, stirring occasionally, until just opaque (shrimp will not be fully cooked), about 3 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil, then briskly simmer for 2 minutes.

5. Add bacon and black-eyed pea mixture and simmer until just heated through (mixture will be juicy). Discard bay leaves.

6. Serve in a bowl with a piece of crusty bread

U2: What I Was Looking For

We saw U2 on Monday night. I'd never seen U2 before, which seems impossible somehow, given how long I've been listening to them, but there it is. My favorite music tends to be small and introspective, so it might seem at odds to love a band that embodies stadium rock the way these guys do, but I can't help myself (nor do I want to). U2's songs are bigger than life, and finally hearing them live was a total treat.

The scene... we were close! We were in the fifth row right behind their "360 degree" stage. I use quotations because while the band definitely played to the crowd on all sides, we probably spent more time looking at their backs than not. That said... it was still pretty awesome.

As close as we were, you'd think I'd take some killer photos. Not really. Between the lighting, fog, and perhaps (hint, hint) my need for an upgraded camera, the intended closeups came out a tad awkward. Here's an awkwardly lit Edge so you get the idea:

I love this shot from the back:

My videos turned out much better.

"Where the Streets Have No Name" ... does this song ever get old? Nope.

I love a good crowd sing-along. Here's 80,000+ singing "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

"One." This song is just beautiful, still. And the video intro by Desmond Tutu compellingly spoke of the work being done to fight AIDS in Africa.

Bono picked out a 14-year-old to run the stage with him during "City of Blinding Light." I love the kid's "am I supposed to leave the stage now?" awkwardness. That's me giggling at him.

For "Sunday, Bloody Sunday," the scene was draped in green in honor of protesters in Iran.

"SBS" is one of my favorite U2 songs. At the concert I was remembering putting this song on a mix tape for my hometown bff Heather, and then listening to said mix tape en route to the beach back in the day. So to indulge me, here's a bad video just because I want to hear more.

Bye bye, U2!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Weekend wonderland

Since we appear to be winding down our stay in Dallas, I've become increasingly sentimental about certain favorite spots/activities about town. One of those places is the Bishop Arts District, where I can't help but wonder how much homier I might've found this city overall if I'd been living there this whole time. The neighborhood has the right kind of historic/funky/artsy/mellow vibe that appeals to a hippie community planner type like myself. So much so, in fact, that this weekend we crossed the river three times to take it in. I couldn't get enough.

Friday night: Bolsa. I'm a huge fan of this new wine bar/restaurant. All of Bolsa's produce is local and organic, and you can taste the difference in every bite. I nearly wept with joy over their spinach salad... seriously. And the duck? Oh my word. Another note about Bolsa: every bartender, hostess, and waiter is just incredibly friendly, well-informed, and excited about their menu... not commonplace anymore, that kind of attitude. See you again soon, Bolsa...

Saturday: We headed back over to Bishop Arts for the Make Urban Street Bazaar. There were so many fantastic booths out there, and it was the first day in Dallas that was scarf-appropriate (hello fall and cider!). I scooped up some adorable hipster baby gear for my surrogate nephews and had the best time people-watching and playing in all the fun shops. Scenes from the afternoon:

"Tweet tweet, bitches!" from Cut Out and Collect 

The Soda Gallery boasts hard-to-find regional sodas (hello NC Cheerwine!) and letterpress from Inky Lips and Missing Q all under one roof

Creepy, fascinating baby hands art piece at Artisan's Collective (didn't catch the artist)

I loved these "Dysfunctional Bottles" by Bret Hahn, also at Artisan's Collective

Awesome t-shirt from Epiphany, which sells a slew of fairly awesome screenprinted tees. And yes, of course I bought one for T. As weird as we are about the words "husband" and "wife," I must admit that "trophy husband" has a nice ring to it. My favorite, though, comes courtesy of Ana Marie Cox's weekend tweets: "opposite marriage partner."

After stocking up on more Italian Tangelo Voluspa candles at Fete-ish (I love these candles!), my opposite marriage partner and I had to race back home to meet the cable guy, who's been hanging at our pad every weekend trying to figure out why our DVR keeps crapping out as us. But then hunger struck... and why not go back to Bishop Arts for the third time in 24 hours, we wondered?

Urban Street Bazaar still going strong!

Although Hattie's has been calling my name for a return visit in a big way, we decided to eat at Tillman's Roadhouse, where I nearly died over the ridiculousness that was my corn-stuffed poblano pepper with coffee/goat cheese polenta. (And almost died in another way at the extremely annoying double date taking place beside us.) But on a brighter note, I am obsessed with Tillman's decor:

Antlers, tree stump tables, and crystal chandeliers? Love it!

Just another weekend in the Big D...

Easy basics done right

Chicken, potatoes, and salad... pretty boring, right? Maybe. But with two of my favorite recipes, these staid basics come to life with amazing flavor. What's more, they're incredibly simple to put together.

First up, the potatoes. I've never had a standard potato recipe that I love and make consistently - baked potatoes aren't really me, roasted potatoes depend on my mood, mashed potatoes are more of a treat. Enter Gourmet Today's Olive Oil Glazed Potatoes. They were the first dish I made when I bought the book, and I've already made them three times. I think this recipe might be that elusive, easy weeknight potato dish I've been searching for all this time. Not only is the dish a snap to make, but I've honestly never had simple fingerling potatoes burst with flavor as much as these do - and that flavor comes purely from olive oil. A quick preparation transforms simple sliced potatoes into glowing, golden coins - just beautiful and absolutely delicious.

Olive Oil Glazed Potatoes
from Gourmet Today

1.5 pounds potatoes (I like fingerlings)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt

Peel potatoes. Halve lengthwise if using a large variety such as russets. Cut potatoes crosswise into 1/8-inch thick slices.

Combine potatoes, water, oil, garlic, and salt in a 10-inch heavy skillet and bring to a simmer. Cover skillet and simmer briskly, shaking skillet occasionally, until potatoes are tender but not falling apart and most of water is absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove lid and boil, uncovered, until liquid has evaporated. If necessary, continue to cook, shaking skillet, until potatoes are glazed, 1-2 minutes.

One of our favorite chicken dishes is a Food & Wine recipe that uses two great flavors to jazz up the poultry - mustard and pretzels. While this dish is great with a glass of beer and a baseball game on tv, it definitely has a place on a grown-up plate with potatoes and salad, too. The pretzels stand in for breading on the baked chicken, and the mustard sauce is surprisingly subtle and smooth. Like the olive oil glazed potatoes, F&W's Mustard-Baked Chicken with a Pretzel Crust is a hit every time.

One note: as you can see, I usually half the chicken breasts for more even cooking (and here the recipe is halved to begin with)

Friday, October 9, 2009

The table I'm not sitting at

I miss my old stomping grounds. Fall in New Mexico, the smell of chile roasting in the air, front porches with friends and vino, politics on the brain... sigh. It's been too long, Land of Enchantment. Besides making my green chile stew and chatting with the friends I left behind, I also do things like watch Albuquerque talk shows to fill my void. But not just any Albuquerque talk show... the one hosted by my dear friend (and our wedding officiant!) Gene. This particular episode of inFocus begins with a reporters' roundtable that also features one of my favorite women on the planet (an m!), Marjorie. Marjorie and Gene's post-election talk is the stuff of our dinner parties at the Forrester house, or nights at the brewpub, or... sorry, I'm reminiscing again. (Can't Help Myself Memory: Marjorie and Gene's speech the night before our wedding was one of my favorite moments of the entire weekend. Marjorie spoke about my commitment to social justice, and then Gene reenacted me "kicking Albuquerque in the balls" during my tenure there. Now those are some great friends.)

For the second half of the show, Gene's regular panel comes in, and there's my pal Sophie, too. It's like a "Maggie's life, 2002-2007" flashback, in one 50-minute segment.

Can you tell I miss engagement in local politics? Hi friends!

Friday I'm in Love

As we do every week, I present three little things that made me smile this week:

Cheese or Font?

I love cheese and I love fonts, but this quiz shows me I clearly don't know enough about either. Go play!

Tim Gunn, Superhero

I can't believe I just discovered this: Tim Gunn is going to be a Marvel Comics Superhero! He saves a fashion show from evil-doers. AMAZING.

ESPN The Magazine's "Body Issue"

This is Sarah Reinertsen, who is the first female amputee to complete the Ironman, and she's one of six cover models for ESPN The Magazine's "Body Issue." I don't always have much patience for nudity for nudity's sake alone, but I've gotta admit, The Body Issue is amazing. The focus is athletic through and through. In 16 photo spreads of different athletes (see them all here), the quotes invoked specifically relate to how that athlete's body helps them excel at their jobs. Body as instrument, not object. There are some fantastic team photos here, and for a refreshing change, the men are even more exposed than the women! There's also a closeup of T's high school pal Patrick Kerney's bicep, if you're interested. (You should be.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

For me, funnymen?

I'd like to request the following subjects make their own feature-length films:

Tennis with Andre Leon Talley

If you saw 'The September Issue,' you know there are two takeaways: Grace Coddington is amazing and Andre Leon Talley is somehow more outrageous than we ever thought possible. I could watch him playing tennis and describing his accessories for hours. Burning question: how does he change his look on the court during cooler seasons? I must know!

Modern Family's 'Mitchell and Cameron'

I'm obsessed with Mitchell and Cameron from Modern Family. (Watch this clip if you're not already watching this show to see why.) While I am totally crushing on the entire cast (Sofia Vergara kills it as the hot Latin trophy wife cliche to Ed O'Neil), these two are just ridiculous. The toddler class last night with Cameron reigning in his "natural gifts" ?? No words.

Ken Tanaka from 'Glee'

My other television crush this fall, Glee, boasts another entirely loveable cast. And while I'm obsessed with Jane Lynch anyway, increasingly crushing on Mathew Morrison, and totally smitten with Jayma May's adorable J.Crew'd, OCD self, I think I have a growing soft spot for Ken Tenaka, the lovable but dumb football couch who happens to be proficient in early '90s R&B songs. I want to see where he lives! I want Ken to be happy! (And since Ken Tanaka videos aren't exactly sweeping the Web, let's just spend Thursday morning watching a YouTube Acafellas video that someone made by taping their video screen, why don't we? Look at Ken rocking his white belt!) Bonus audio clip, on knocking off a few reps, here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Still mourning

In the wake of Gourmet's closure this week, I mourned its passing here and in comments on dozens of other beautifully composed odes on the Web. A core component of our community outcry centers around Gourmet's role in the food world that we care so much about. The magazine isn't ("wasn't?" ouch.) just an industry-leader; it's a moral center, the heart of how many of us approach food, celebration, and everyday pleasure.

As comforting as many blog posts have been, most of the mainstream coverage about Gourmet has put me on edge. Major newspapers have adopted similar themes: Gourmet couldn't compete in a Rachael Ray world; the magazine was elitist and beyond the comprehension of most Americans; food doesn't matter the same way it once did; no one has the time or interest to cook from scratch anymore; the magazine would die with the oldest generation anyway.

Well, wait a minute there. Because I, for one, feel like Food-tainment is ruining us. Instead of spending time in their kitchens, viewers who might actually cook for themselves are spending even more of their time on the couch. As for elitism, in the current issue, Gourmet gives us a dozen pages on street food alongside a paragraph writeup of a gourmet tasting menu. That balance of high and low, that carving out of space for other cultures and price points in a previously-Francophile world, is how editor Ruth Reichl helped establish what amounted to a dining critic revolution nearly two decades ago. Are Gourmet's recipes tougher to follow than another magazines? I don't believe so. They simply ask for good technique and the best ingredients you can find - and those ingredients are typically not found in the packaged food or freezer aisles. And I'd say food matters more than ever. The U.S. saw a 13% increase in farmers markets between 2008-2009 alone, and a 297% increase in farmers markets since 1994. That's astounding. Due to food safety concerns, a wider availability of organic and local produce, and publicity about why these choices matter, we are beginning to eat more consciously as a country and, I believe, can begin slowly making up for some of the havoc large-scale food production has wrought. And I know people care about cooking, because I see it everywhere I look. I see it at the market, I see it in blog-world, I see it in my friends and family. What's more? I'm not a graying, stuffy elite. I'm 31 years old. And Gourmet was my favorite magazine.

Embodying all these points and more is a new piece from Salon that also takes offense at the mainstream reaction to the news, "Gourmet was for the young and scrappy, too." This piece cuts to the heart of why much of the coverage has been so wrong-headed. Finally. Alex Van Buren characterizes Ruth Reichl in the way that I see her, as an "egalitarian badass."
There is a split in the so-called foodie community between those who consider themselves entitled to the good life and those who are just so abuzz with glee about being in a restaurant or eating something delicious they can hardly stand it. It’s my opinion that -- despite its visions of opulence -- Gourmet appealed to the latter instinct in us, and that it’s the better one.
 I couldn't have said it better myself.

And while I'm at it, another piece that's driven home for me the bigger picture of losing a central publication in a digital world is Abbey's "Still Heartbroken", which focuses on the loss of paper we can hold in our hands, from "The internet is ultimately unsatisfying," to "And please, what about reading on the toilet?," to finally, "No one is archiving the internet." Food for thought, all of it.

Me, I'm still in mourning. I love paper, photography, and words that matter. It's why my apartment is overflowing with books. It's why I subscribe to the New York Times even though I live in Dallas and it's ridiculously expensive to have it delivered daily. It's why I loved Gourmet. There is presence to paper for me that does not exist on the screen upon which you are reading these words, and cannot exist.

So I'm mourning, yes, but I'm still cooking. And you can, too. Join me and other scrappy, egalitarian badasses for a blogging event to honor Gourmet. Simply cook your favorite Gourmet recipe by October 15 and link to the site, where next week we'll peek into Gourmet readers' kitchens and see how they've honored the dearly departed. I call it proactive, joyful mourning.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Meditation on the Artichoke

Is any vegetable more sculptural or beautiful? The revelations of each layer are as rewarding to look at as they are to eat. From the dinner table tonight:

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