Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Full trip report to be written… someday. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving / Kat’s Birthday Weekend!

Today I learned the AT&T datacenter was built on a dairy farm, and that’s where people used to let their bunnies go when they got them for Easter. (No, I’m not high.)

After almost a week of trying, I soloed at Paine Field today. This is important because it’s a busy, towered airport with a small runway rather than a nice, quiet, non-towered airport in the middle of nowhere like Arlington.

On Monday, the clouds were too low for me to fly at all. On Tuesday, the wind was too gusty for me to chance flying alone. On Wednesday, my brain and body were being bitches, and there were 5 planes in the pattern because the weather was nice. Today, I had my first send-off lunch at Fiesta Latina before my lesson, and it looks like a burrito drenched in creamy tomatillo sauce made all the difference.

Why a send-off lunch? As of Monday, I will no longer be driving to Everett three days a week (or more). I found a job close to home and I’m excited to start! I’m going to keep flying and temporarily contracting at my current job until they replace me, but I’d rather spend a long Saturday up here doing a little work, flying for a bit, and then playing cards up at Tulalip than barrel up and down I-5 three weekdays.

I’ll be busy as hell getting on board at the new job, but I still plan to keep doing aquarium stuff. Apparently, WordPress, Blue Host, or some other web entity didn’t like my use of J-word when referring to a picture of an octopus spermatophore. The male octopus had a release a few days before he was to mate with our female octopus on February 14th. All that went well, and they have since been sent back into the wild and replaced.

Just to show my Internet Big Brother who’s boss, here’s a picture of two harlequin shrimp mating:

The crab in the background totally wants in on that action. He had a better view than my scrambled-aquarium-pr0n camera, too.

As posted on Yelp: Several of my friends recommended this place, so I jumped at the chance to try it. And then I sat in a chair for 40 minutes waiting for a table on a Sunday night. That’s okay, since we didn’t have a reservation, but we watched them seat a table of six with no reservation before us.

To start, we ordered tea and prosciutto-wrapped scallops, both of which were pretty good. Then our sub-par sushi came. The creamy scallops were okay, but the rest of the rolls were pretty bland. Most notably, the 5th Element roll, which was on the list of spicy rolls, was delivered to us without any of its spicy sauces on it. When we told our waitress, instead of apologizing for the mistake and giving us the rolls as they were meant to be prepared, she brought out two soy dishes containing the sauces that were supposed to go on the rolls.

My date and I were pretty surprised, but we had already spent enough time there and just wanted to finish our meal and leave. Our waitress was slow with the check, so while we waited, the manager (?) had a chance to come around and ask how our meal was. My date mentioned the mix-up and at that point, we received an apology. However, he chose to right the mistake not by removing the roll from the check or giving us some kind of coupon/discount to use next time, he foisted upon us a dish of red bean ice cream that neither of us wanted. We said we didn’t want it before he brought it and he insisted on bringing it to us anyway.

So we spent our evening waiting to eat mediocre sushi and then were rewarded with a mediocre dessert. Hooray.

“Why do you have pizza?”

“You’re hungry,” a cross-country runner said.

“Because you want to,” Vernacchio affirmed. “It starts with desire, an internal sense — not an external ‘I got a game today, I have to do it.’ And wouldn’t it be great if our sexual activity started with a real sense of wanting, whether your desire is for intimacy, pleasure or orgasms… And you can be hungry for pizza and still decide, ‘No thanks, I’m dieting. It’s not the healthiest thing for me now.’

“If you’re gonna have pizza with someone else, what do you have to do?” he continued. “You gotta talk about what you want. Even if you’re going to have the same pizza you always have, you say, ‘We getting the usual?’ Just a check in. And square, round, thick, thin, stuffed crust, pepperoni, stromboli, pineapple — none of those are wrong; variety in the pizza model doesn’t come with judgment,” Vernacchio hurried on. “So ideally when the pizza arrives, it smells good, looks good, it’s mouthwatering. Wouldn’t it be great if we had that kind of anticipation before sexual activity, if it stimulated all our senses, not just our genitals but this whole-body experience.” By this time, he was really moving fast; he’d had to cram his pizza metaphor into the last five minutes. “And what’s the goal of eating pizza? To be full, to be satisfied. That might be different for different people; it might be different for you on different occasions. Nobody’s like ‘You failed, you didn’t eat the whole pizza.'”

An excerpt from Teaching Good Sex

If only congress had put this much thought into sex education for our country’s teenagers as it did into calling pizza a serving of vegetables.

If I said I woke up at 5:30 this morning, that would only be part of the truth. I also woke up at 12:15, 2, 2:30, 4, and 5:20. I was hot, I was cold, I was dreaming about a BDH customer I forgot I had and was scrambling to get a Scrabble bingo so I could properly meet their pre-arranged requests. (What?) I even went as far as continuing the dream after waking up once, still thinking I had the client, and tried to solve my Scrabble conundrum.

I could also blame my restlessness on the foul sustenance that is Chinese delivery, and the fact that I did nothing entertained company from my home all day yesterday.

At any rate, waking up wasn’t easy. I received an email from a potential client (absent of Scrabble requests, thankfully). I nicked my rear right tail light on a pole (the hearse is fine). And then I drove to Everett, listening to an NPR segment about obesity. A 50-year-old woman admitted to spending each one of her birthday wishes on being thin. She had recently lost 80 pounds in 8 months and ran a marathon. It reminded me first that I am lucky for being thin and doing nothing… then I remembered I ran a marathon once upon a time too.

I got to Paine Field, and the plane shook as I went through my pre-flight checklist. We were bombarded with gusts of wind reaching 30 mph as we ascended from the small runway. The plan was to make closed traffic and do a few touch-and-gos. “It will be a good learning experience,” my instructor said.

By our third take-off, I was feeling nauseous. I was tired, and frankly a little frightened by my lack of control of the plane. It was difficult to turn, and when I could, I was often thrust into turns steeper than I intended. The crosswind component was flirting with the plane’s limits, and we only stayed in the air for about 30 minutes.

However, all that really matters are the last 2 or 3. I executed a smooth, steady landing in that crosswind. Funny how the prospect of crashing a plane will wake you the fuck up and get your ass in gear. Left aileron into the wind, right rudder smashed into the floor, I fucking killed it.

My nervousness about flying solo is gradually fading. I definitely wouldn’t have flown in this by myself, but it’s good to know if conditions ever get that dicey while I’m in the air, I can handle it. Now it’s time for copious amounts of coffee and hopefully a nap later.

I’ve been on this kick lately where I’m trying to buy foods that contain only ingredients that I can pronounce and understand. This means I’ve been reading the label on everything, which is something I’ve had to train myself not to do upon exiting a meticulous calorie-counting family. It turns out calories don’t mean anything if the food doesn’t fill and nourish you. (Surprise-surprise, right?)

Today, I really wanted to make a Frito pie. If you live in Texas, you already know it is the tastiest slapped-together food innovation since peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So I bought Fritos, which, while not exactly healthy, contain corn, oil, and salt. Totally fine as long as I don’t overdo it.

I also needed chili. I have my regular brand, the brand an ex turned me onto, the brand I know I don’t like, and the chi-chi organic stuff. Chili comes in a wide variety of flavors, textures, and artery-hardening potentials. As it turns out, a lot of them contain mostly the same stuff. They all have a little soy, with the exception being the organic kinds, that have a ton of soy. I’m also finding that soy isn’t the fucking godsend vegetarians make it out to be. It’s okay in small amounts, but it can fuck with your thyroid if you use it as the sole replacement for meat. (I’ll still eat boka burgers and drink soy milk sometimes.)

Anyway, I’m was reading a can of turkey chili and the main ingredient is “mechanically separated turkey”. I immediately imagined some poor little turkey being tied by the feet and wings to some horrible machine that would slowly draw and quarter him while his wild, gobbly shrieks filled the dark, cold room.

And then I bought two cans.

Approaching the dumpster adjacent to the parking lot, I had to step over what looked like the remnant of someone’s failed dinner of fried, seasoned zucchini spears and a shit-ton of Reese’s peanut butter cup wrappers. It’s always nice to be reminded that there are people out there much, much lamer than I am.

Five years had passed since I’d set foot in the place. It was a smorgasboard of horrible from the very beginning. Immediately realizing my foolish mistake, I vowed never to return.

Then came the dilemma of last night. After finishing the blissfully awful movie, Tideland, a too-short episode of the “The Simpsons”, and a rerun of “Family Guy”, my fellow Texpat and I were famished from all the energy we had expended.

“I’m hungry. Let’s go to Chipotle,” he said.

I slapped him and called him a heretic. (Not really.) I asked him how he could be from Austin and eat at such a place. It’s not just a chain, it’s a chain that strips away every beautiful quality inherent of delicious Tex-Mex food, leaving a trail of disasterous fail in its wake. How could he even suggest this blasphemous excursion to the depths of culinary hell?

He replied that it really wasn’t that bad. We were, in fact, in Seattle, and this is the best they can do here. I didn’t want to believe it, but maybe he was right. And maybe Chipotle had changed since its disconnection from McDonalds in 2006. Donning my usual Sunday uniform (clothes from the night before), I decided to give it a try.

(If you’re a Texan, you understand what my monster is, and why it is a privilege to unwrap it.)

So here’s the breakdown:

    • Line: The architecture of Chipotle’s line-bordering walls is exactly the same as Freebirds. It’s like someone went to Freebirds and, I don’t know, took some notes maybe? And, oh, I don’t know, spent six years raising capital to open a similar business with shares they would eventually sell mostly to McDonalds, the mecca of terrible food and marketing values because they needed some capital? But then maybe officially spin off once people realized it was the spoiled trust fund baby of chain fast food restaurants? Hmmm? Maybe? But I digress.


    • Staff: At Freebirds, your order is taken by a friendly tattooed kid with colored hair and/or piercings. At Chipotle, your order is taken by a squat woman who can’t speak English. Attitude might also be included free of charge.


    • Clientele: At Freebirds, you eat alongside college students, techies on their lunch break, and other cool people. At Chipotle, high school kids and suburban twat-rockets.


    • Tortillas: Freebirds has a choice of four flavors (spinach, cayenne, whole wheat, and regular) in different sizes. Chipotle has one flavor in one size and it’s like eating a rubbery circle of garbage.


    • Rice: Freebirds has Spanish rice. Nom. Chipotle has white rice with lemon and cilantro in it. Meh.


    • Beans: Chipotle doesn’t have refried beans. WTF WTF WTF.


    • Meat-stuffs: Chipotle has more choices (including pork), but Freebirds offers white OR dark chicken. I got beef barbacoa at Chipotle, but it wasn’t shredded enough to be burrito filling. So instead of an even allocation of ingredients, the meat portion of my burrito was consumed in three giant bites.


    • Cheese: Freebirds has three kinds, Chipotle has one. But most cheese tastes the same when it’s melted with seven other things, so I guess it’s a tie.


    • Sauces: If you count corn as a sauce, then Chipotle has something Freebirds doesn’t, but the selection is still limited. Freebirds has Death Sauce. That’s right, when you eat at Freebirds, you gamble with your LIFE. That makes it a win in my book.


    • Sour Cream: Chipotle’s is soupy, but they don’t charge for it.


    • Guacamole: Both places charge extra. And it’s all delicious. Tie.


    • Foil: If you’re a fan of eating like I am, your burrito is going to be big when you get to the end. At Chipotle, they wrap your burrito in one piece of foil. One tiny piece of foil! Freebirds people will wrap your delicious masterpiece until it has the proper stability, and there’s extra foil by the napkin and salsa station. Bringing me to my next point…


    • Salsa Station: THIS is where I get more tomatillo sauce to enjoy with every bite of my Freebirds burrito. Where’s the salsa station at Chipotle? Oh wait, there ISN’T one. You get Tabasco sauce, comrade. That’s it.


    • Napkins: Chipotle’s napkins have directions on how to unwrap your burrito. People who need directions should go back to Taco Bell until they’re ready to eat real Americanized Mexican food. And then they should go to Freebirds.


  • Website: I can’t eat a website, but let it be known that Chipotle uses gratuitous flash and sounds whether you want it or not. Freebirds lets you choose between html and flash, and you can easily turn the music on and off. Obvious winner.

Yes, I still ate every bite, interspersing chews with short but frequent complaints. My southern partner in migration and homesickness seemed humored by my explicit weakness and told me he expected nothing less. It’s human nature to compare things, and last night left me completely unable to overcome it.

See also: Two Days of Boo-fays