Thursday, May 10, 2007

Fennel, Forgiveness, New Dresses and Dinette

Well, compared to the armed robber running around the neighborhood yesterday, the other chatter seems a little dull.

I've been trying out recipes from Patricia Wells' new cookbook, Vegetable Harvest, which my mom gave me. It's been a relatively typical experience for me with one of her books- some great recipes, some that should have been edited out instead of used as filler. When we made the tuna with espelette, my mom was pleased to discover that not only did I have espelette in my kitchen, but she has it in hers, as well. Shoved to the back because I'd forgotten to tell her what it is or that I'd bought it, but there. I made the fennel, parsley and sheep's milk cheese salad last night, which is pictured. Of the three dishes I tried, it was my favorite; all three were essentially Wells' variations on standards, but I like standards, and I like noodling around with variations in them, so... all's well. I also made the braised asparagus with rosemary and bay... the rosemary needles started breaking off, partly because I neglected the braise to demonstrate to my son how totally ignorant I am about the naming policies of navy ships. He wanted to know the naming method for destroyers. I only, in the last year, caught on to the fact that many carriers were named for revolutionary war battles, which helped me when he would ask which carriers were involved in, say, the Battle of Coral Seas. Lexington? Ticonderoga? Saratoga? Concord? Bunker Hill? I would trot out my old standards, he would correct me and we could proceed with the rest of the conversation, usually a discussion of a WWII naval battle that I know nothing about. Anyway, I had no clue that destroyers were named for heroes or I would have started with... I don't know. Ethan Allen? During my demonstration of lack of naval knowledge, the rosemary overcooked into brittle needles which broke off of the sprigs and were rather poke-y and thorn-like in the mouth and clung stubbornly to the asparagus. The dish is worth making again, though, with less wandering off. Although if it can't stand being wandered away from, it often doesn't get shown to advantage when I'm cooking it. I can't blog and not stray off-topic. Do you really think I can cook and not get distracted? Nuh-uh. I also made the chicken with mint, capers and white wine. All told, it was lots of green and beige on the plate. I happen to be pretty partial to recipes with shaved fennel (thinly sliced, in my case), so it won as the favorite.

My mom is in town and we ran some errands this morning. We browsed clothes at Illi, a little boutique on Westlake, just a little south of the new Whole Foods off Denny. I needed buttermilk, Whole Foods was en route from one errand to the next... and we just decided to take a browse. As it happens, my husband recently (no, I don't know why. It was NOWHERE near the laundry) washed a little fine-gauge top by Missoni (my only and much-prized Missoni top) in the washing machine, causing a substantial hole to appear over the nipple. If I was nursing and wanted to always be ready to have the baby latch right on, this might have been a handy new feature. On a top meant to wear out to cocktails. As it was, after throwing a tantrum over my now handy-for-uninhibited-nursing-mothers cocktail top, I explained to my husband that things with labels ending in "i" (or Gabbana, just for reference, honey) should probably not be machine washed. Ever. The top had been purchased at Illi, as it happens. We browsed, I tried on things from the $20 bargain bin (which I think were sized for anorexic 12-year-olds... or Nicole Richie; I couldn't even get a couple of them over my shoulders), we chatted about the sad, sad fate of my top... and my mom bought me a Farhi dress! This is a very blurry picture of it, with me doing my best to suck in my stomach. The batteries on my camera just died, so the first attempt at a photo was also the last. It's got a pretty garden-party '50s vibe that I really dig, and honestly, I like feeling pretty better than I like feeling edgy. This doesn't really explain my fondness for Dolce & Gabbana, Pucci... well, tacky and fabulous is really a whole different kettle of fish than edgy. This dress is also comfortable enough to eat dinner in.

And eat dinner I did. Not only did she buy me a dress, my mom took me to Dinette. She's my mom. You can't have her.

At any rate: Dinette. I've been wanting to try it for ages, but I don't have good parking karma and have, since I haven't lived on Capitol Hill in over a decade, grown truly terrible at parallel parking in impossibly small spaces... and it's on Capitol Hill. I've just kept putting it off.

Tonight, my parking karma apparently was enjoying the new dress, because we scored a space directly in front that turned out to be legal (I have bad parking karma when it comes to tickets, too). And I really, really liked the restaurant. The toast gimmick sounds a little annoying but is just the thing for bruschetta and open-face sandwich loving sorts. Which we are. Carbohydrate-loving runs in my family. We shared a pork belly beet and arugula toast that was scrumptious and simple-seeming. The arugula was dressed as a salad, the beet had been cooked and was dressed but not in the same stuff as the arugula, the pork belly was cooked to really greed-inducing crispiness and the bread was well-toasted and still warm. Mmmm. I liked the way they plastered, painted and gilded (or colored plaster that was then rubbed to a fine sheen like a gesso board? Not totally sure- I kind of wanted to chip at the plaster and see if the color went all the way through, but I don't think that would have gone over well) columns took what had been an awkward element into the room and turned them into a decorative advantage that helps set the mood. Can you make sizing in green? I've never actually made it, but am only used to blood red size. I've read about making size (when do you call it size and when do you call it sizing? Is there a gilder with good grammar available?), but never really did it. Anyway, the size-or paint?- under the decorative gilding on the columns was green, which I thought was interesting.

My mom is pretty fun to try new places with. She's game to discuss the pros and cons of the decor, the clientele's fashion choices, the menu and so on. We had a nice time, for instance, discussing the couple (on a date, we thought) in which the man was wearing... a bright blue bicycling cap. He wasn't Lance Armstrong or Miguel Indurain. Or hot. Any of which might have made it marginally less lame. We debated how much of the alcohol on the table his date would consume. Answer: less than I would have on a date with a guy wearing a bicycle cap, although maybe she snuck a few without me noticing. Maybe he was a good conversationalist. I hope so. It was really fun. Thanks, mom.
There are no pictures of Dinette. I am still a little too shy to take pictures of my dinner, or the restaurant, or the lame guy with the bicycle cap. It doesn't feel particularly polite... and yet I enjoy seeing the pictures when other people do it.

I'm forced to say (okay, not forced, since I could remain silent, and it's about time I shut up, anyway) , that I didn't care for the coffee-cake muffin. Sorry, Volunteer Park Cafe & Marketplace -could you all get a shorter name? The one-named trend is a little overdone, but this is too far the other way- maybe I caught you all on a bad day. The bundt cake was reported as still really quite delicious.

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