I've come to the realization that I'm never going to finish writing up our trip to Asheville. Well at least I hit the highlights -- the yurt and Keaton's Barbecue. The only thing I'll add is a photo I took of Georg and myself at one of the overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Now, Georg hates this photo and wanted me to delete it. And I concede, it's not the most flattering shot of either of us. But what is a weblog for, if not to humiliate yourself and those closest to you? With that in mind here's the photo.
Southern Season, local gourmet food shop, is having a big moving sale. We thought the sale had just started so we headed over this afternoon, hoping to get some 25% Le Creuset. Le Creuset being, of course, enameled iron cookware. Beautiful, long-lasting, wonderful to cook with, extremely expensive. I was also hoping to get some truffle oil and a little can of foie gras, because I'm certainly not paying full price for that stuff.
Well the sale must have been going on longer than we had realized, because they were completely cleaned out of truffle oil, the Le Creuset was totally picked over, and I couldn't find any true -- i.e. goose -- foie gras, although I did get a can of duck. Also the Indian section was pretty sparse, which was disappointing for reasons I'll get into in a bit. I did get a packet of pappads and a bottle of rosewater. Georg's kooky food splurge was a can of Cream of Stilton soup; mine was the foie gras I guess. Or maybe the $19 bottle of Shiraz (marked down from $28!). Or the white tea, which I've been wanting to try because I love tea but I've lost my tolerance for caffeine. Okay so I had a lot of splurges.
We did consider buying a Le Creuset oval casserole, but it wasn't exactly what we wanted and even at 25% off, still quite expensive. Sometime soon we're going to drive out to the Le Creuset outlet store in Burlington and see how their prices are. The one time I was in there before, I remembered it as being no deal at all. But that was many years ago and I wasn't really aware of how much fine cookware cost at that point. So I might find it more of a bargain now.
So in one of those strangely optimistic moments, I decided to have a Bollywood party at my house. Serve Indian food, watch dance numbers from Bollywood movies, that sort of thing. Georg and I had originally decided to invite 6 people, which would make 8 including us. A bit of a squeeze in our tiny house, but doable.
Here's the thing. It's been a long time since I've had a party, and I kept thinking of people who would enjoy Bollywood night, and before I knew it we had invited 10 people. For a total of 12. Which is about twice as many people as can comfortably sit at my table or in my living room. Not to mention, I only have enough of the good dishes for 6. (Which makes perfect sense if you don't invite more people than will fit around the table.) And we set the date for the 20th, two weeks from today.
So I'm kind of panicking a bit about finding room for all these people. Plus of course we have to get the house cleaned up, not to mention the cooking, all in two weeks! (Actually the cooking part is fun, but still a lot of work.) Luckily a few of the guests also know how to cook Indian and have volunteered to bring dishes. And one of the advantages of Indian is that a lot of it can be made in advance. Georg suggested that I would be much less stressed out about this party if I think of it as a party with dinner, not a dinner party.
In other cooking news, I tried a recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking II last night. Brocoli Étuvés au Beurre. Which means, "broccoli baked in a very large amount of butter." I made the variation with grated Parmesan cheese added. It turned out really well if I do say so myself. Just enough cheese to give it a nice tang, but not enough to taste like cheese rather than broccoli. And I have to admit, I was leery of Julia's reputation for overcooking vegetables, but I really enjoyed the broccoli. It was mellow and tender, not mushy or tasteless like I had feared. I did blanch it a bit less than she recommended. I usually like my broccoli pretty crunchy but I'm going to have to experiment with it more fully cooked.
Tonight we're going to try a recipe from Mastering volume I: Poulet au Porto. Which is a roast chicken, carved, flamed in cognac, then covered with a mushroom/port/cream sauce. Sounds fabulous, and not too difficult to make.
Don't worry, I'm not planning to start my own "Sarah/Julia Project" here. It's just that I've been reading the Julie/Julia project for the past few days, and was already reading Mastering before that, and we were in the supermarket, both thoroughly lacking inspiration because we had just eaten a late lunch. It's so hard to think about a meal when you're still full from the meal before. So anyway, all I could think of was "hey, what about that Julia Child recipe with the roast chicken flamed in cognac?"
I have read the entry in the Julie/Julia Project where Julie did this recipe, but she had a lot of problems unrelated to the recipe (mostly missing key ingredients) so she didn't write a whole lot about how it went actually cooking it. She did mention that the chicken ended up tasting too much of alcohol because she didn't let the cognac burn off all the way. So I'll watch for that. Also, in an earlier entry she made the incredibly helpful observation that Julia's method of roasting chicken is needlessly complicated and adds nothing to the taste or texture. Julia wants you to truss the bird and keep turning it throughout the roasting, but Julie found the chicken ended up drier and the skin less crispy than her usual method. Which is to oil and season the bird, stick it in the oven and leave it alone. That's my method too so I'll be happy to skip all that trussing and basting and turning.
I just realized that I've written a lengthy entry, almost entirely about food. Which isn't that inappropriate considering how much of my life is spent thinking about, preparing or enjoying food. But might get a little monotonous for you, dear reader. So let me just add that it cooled down yesterday and has been unseasonably cool since. So cool that I'm wearing a sweater in the middle of the afternoon. In the first week of September! How wonderful. It's supposed to drop below 60 tonight. Perfect weather for a roast chicken in mushroom cream sauce. Wait, I'm talking about food again.
Oh! Here's something that has nothing to do with food. I got the DVD of Wings of Desire, one of my favorite movies. It has a commentary by Wim Wenders and Peter Falk, which I haven't had a chance to watch, but I did watch a great documentary about the film. Really, really interesting to hear Wenders talking about the city of Berlin; the original purpose of the movie, apparently, was to showcase the city, and buildings and places which he loved. Berlin is almost another character in the film.
One fun thing was images of some of the angel costumes they tried before eventually settling on the long coats. One of them was an armored breastplate, which they kept in the movie by having it fall on Damiel's head when he became human. Also, I was amused to learn that there's a continuity error (or maybe it's plot logic, I always get those two confused) in Peter Falk's internal monologue. (SPOILER ALERT:) Falk kept thinking about things his grandmother had told him, but as a fallen angel he could never have had a grandmother. (END SPOILER) Falk had recorded those voiceovers after returning to the US so they weren't able to correct it. Apparently none of the monologues were scripted; Wenders just generally told people what to talk about and let them go to it.
Also on the DVD are a bunch of deleted scenes with commentaries. Turns out that he filmed a completely different ending to the movie! (SPOILER ALERT:) Instead of ending with Damiel and Marion finding each other, it goes on to show Cassiel becoming human as well, finding Damiel and Marion, and then they get into a pie fight with a bunch of pies that happen to be sitting there. That's right, this complex, somber, meditative film originally ended with the two angels throwing pies in each other's faces. (END SPOILER) Wenders even provides all the raw footage, from all angles, and encourages viewers to download it into their computers and edit together the scene. He invites us all to send the edited scenes to his website, and promises that the best scene will win a pie from him.
Hey, I'm talking about food again. I give up!