Posts Tagged ‘R2’

My Pseudo-Cat Mochi

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Mochi’s Batman shadow is v. cute

There is this cat that hangs out in R2′s neighborhood. Its name, I have decided, is Mochi. I don’t know if it is a he or a she, but it is definitely a Kitler.

Mochi is fucking fascinated by Bootie. I have to admit Bootie is delicious-looking and both R2 and I have caught each other trying to eat her, but Mochi makes this joke a little too often, making me all “Dude. Mochi.”

Like the other day, when R2 left his door open, and lo!

Where the fuck is that chicken finger

I love it when Mochi breaches the homestead because it makes me feel like a cat owner without the accompanying stigma, and up close I can see her lusciously-soft-looking fur which is good mental fodder to fuel my late-night kitteh petting fantasies.

R2 has his own fantasies regarding Mochi. Or, more accurately, fantasies regarding the significance of his own pet.

Me: Ah. Here is an email from R2. I wonder if this email is about that vagrant that is squatting in the apartment near his that is freaking the neighborhood out. *click*

R2: Maybe – just MAYBE - Mochi is a cat from the future, a future where cats have risen to take their rightful place as Masters of the Earth. After years of failed Human stewardship, control of the Earth will finally be taken by those best suited to ensure its thriving survival. Planet of the Cats is better, cuter world – where humans serve their feline rulers. And Mochi is an adventurer-king, sent back in time to help facilitate and influence the very beginnings of this brighter future. He is accompanied by his faithful but eccentric human servant, Daryl. Under the best of circumstances, Daryl’s something of a Renfield, but this is accentuated/exacerbated once they are both stuck back in our time. They are reduced to living meanly on the streets (temporarily, until their mission is complete), and Daryl’s lack of amenities has enhanced his  appearance as a vagrant-type. Mochi, of course, retains his regal dignity, even on the street. His mission: to seek audience with the key to the future, a sage Animal seer who will provide guidance and counsel. But this wise, aged creature – upon whom ALL depends – is kept safely sequestered and protected – even from Mochi’s noble attempts at communication. Try as he might, Mochi has not yet been able to gain audience. And so the adventure continues – with Mochi determined to complete his mission and Daryl focused on honoring his Cat Lord – until such time as they can treat with this Animal Master of the past (our present).

In the future, pretzels are our enemy. That’s why.

At times like these, I really wish my name was Allie and I could illustrate this shit. For now, I will settle on a particularly elaborate kitty fantasy. Thanks R2.

CIA at Greystone

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Solar flares are so hot right … well more like 2008

“Something…to do with…waiters packing heat? Menu decryptions? Like…we had to code-break the menu in order to order? Its sister restaurant is Hoover’s and it’s a drag club? ‘This is your menu, should you choose to accept it’ you know like Mission Impossible 2 intro?”

These are the jokes that R2 was trying out in the car before arriving at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus/restaurant in Napa Valley. Then Tron came up with “I’d tell you the specials but I’d have to kill you” and R2 was shamed, and then he also came up with “The food is to die for,” which shamed him even further. Which was itself a shame because out of the two, only R2 would have ACTUALLY gone through with it and hassled the poor server.

Yelp says the food is good but the service is shit. I thought the service was fine – a little slow, and our food came way before our wine which wasn’t ideal, but I thought of it as Top Chef Restaurant Wars and all was well. Also, our server reminded me of Jon I Only Speak The Truth Leguizamo.

Before, during, and after Sookie Stackhouse sex

I got a flight of wine that contained both white and red (and a rose that I tolerated) since our appetizer was fish and my entree was beef. The official, unwieldy title of this restaurant is Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant of the Culinary Institute of America, and indeed I thought this flight of wine was lovely, particularly on a gorgeous patio with one’s favorite friends.

Our app was Monterey Bay Sardines with Yukon Gold potatoes, frisée and herb salad, and salsa verde, and it came with a wine pairing – two ounces of Miner Rosato, 2009, local from Mendocino County.

I choked on the dill but that’s not their fault

What a perfect dish for this setting!  Fresh, light, textbook char on the sardine, inventive, interesting textures, utterly yummy. I would eat this again and again, and it’s now almost a month later and it’s still on their “updated weekly” menu so perhaps I should.

R2 got caught, as he always does, in the gravitational pull of the halibut entree, but at the last moment I successfully lured him away by mentally dangling scallops in front of him. Specifically, Day Boat Scallops – pan seared with sweet white corn, mushrooms, sugar snap peas, and basil pesto.

Peas are pissed at the corm for being sweeter than they are, despite the “sugar” in their name

The sear here was also textbook, but unforch the scallop was more than raw in the middle. I heart a raw scallop, but not a seared raw scallop, the middle of which made me realize the hard truth that scallops, rather than being marshmallows of the sea, are fishy muscle tissue that giant clams use to open and close their shells. G-ross.

Isn’t this the best part of having a boyfriend? Making them eat the lesser of the two dishes you couldn’t decide between? I promptly forgot all about the scallops and dug into my entree:

The pink flower is an angel heralding oral heaven

So tender. Beyond tender. Daniel calls this “tendyond,” though he uses the term for when people are being schmoopy sweet to each other. I was only provided with a butter knife, which I thought was a student-in-training error, but may have been Greystone just showing off.

This dish sparked a beef revival in me (dirty), and now the protein that I unfailingly used to skip over on every menu now automatically makes it onto my Top 3 contenders list. Also, I understand why spaghetti sauce is so delicious, because it’s basically everything you see in the photo above, just chopped into bits and simmered forever.

I was in a terrible situation, where I wanted to savor the flavor and draw out the pleasure of my entree for as long as possible, but my hands and jaw were in shovel and paku-paku mode, respectively. The net result of this was that no one even noticed my panic because I finished my plate at the same time as everyone around me.

For dessert, we ordered the give-us-whatever dessert, and ended up with:

I only tasted the liquid ones because I thought they might have alcohol

You know me. I’m not a dessert gal. I did, however, deeply enjoy the schmancy root beer float, maybe because it was more beverage than dessert. Also, the panna cotta was liquid-ey-er than it should have been and thus, for the same reasons, pleasing.

This was a great way to start a day of wine tasting – it served the dual function of padding the tum to prevent drunkenness too early and making us feel civilized (to buffer our minds against the truth which is that we were going to drink ourselves silly and perhaps puke on strangers). Greystone has yet to have a mayor, so Foursquare folks – get on it.

Thank you to R2 for being DD.

Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant
2555 Main St
St Helena, CA 94574
707.967.1010

Susiecakes vs Kara’s

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Daniel visited me a couple weeks ago, and I was like, “I has a Daniel nao wat i do wit it?”

We already had plans to do a super schmance dinner (Michael Mina) and we already had plans to dress up like we were in a dance krew and go to Step Up 3-D, so I was at a loss.

Then – inspiration.

“Do you want to has a cupcake-off between Kara’s and Susiecakes?”

“YES!”

So we went to Kara’s first, and decided we needed to taste-off the basics for sure, so we got a regular with vanilla frosting. Specifically, the fancy name: Sweet Vanilla – vanilla cupcake with sweet madagascar bourbon vanilla frosting. We also got a passion fruit one – vanilla cupcake with passion fruit filling and vanilla buttercream.

We carried the box down the street to Susiecakes, where the chick eyed our pink package but didn’t say anything. There, we got vanilla, Luscious Lemon, red velvet, and mint chocolate. I am not sure why we got four here as opposed to two there.

Oh, an important note: Daniel is now the proud owner of a fatty macro lens. Yessss. Now MTFB can be a legit depth-of-field-ey type blog! I mean, LOOK what he did with Payback’s ears!

And our mimosa at Squat and Gobble!

So yeah. We were as excited to photograph our new purchases as we were to eat them. I knew that they would look smashing on my kitchen table, which is ice-green/blue and reflective.

Oh, Daniel is now explaining that we chose the vanilla and red velvet first, and then he wanted to try the chocolate mint as a mini, but they didn’t have any, so he got the big one, and then I was like you should get another to fill the box, so we got the lemon one for Tinx (who was driving up from LA later that night). [Note: Apparently she never ate it, as when I asked her for comments for this post she said "I liked the Kara's one but I only had one bite I don't even remember what kind it was." Kara's - ie not the lemon one we got her. Fail.]

[in Heidi voice] Let’s start the show.

Not bad, Daniel.

As for the competition-

Box: Kara’s wins, because (a) it is a cuter color; (b) the sticker is used strategically to close the box; (c) the box is designed better – the flaps fold into itself, whereas Susiecakes the flaps stick out and they use janky scotch tape to keep the box closed; and (d) -

Cuppycake holsters so they’ll stay upright. Susiecakes just rolled around – ugh a pet peeve of mine.

Selection: Although both Kara’s and Susiecakes’ have t-shirts and big cakes, Susiecakes also has whoopie pies, silky and rich-looking puddings, mini cupcakes, and  cheesecakes. So Susie wins.

Cake: Kara’s wins. Moist yet light and vanilla-ey; neither of these described Susie, though “buttery” did.

Frosting: Susiecakes pulled this one out, though it could have been because we tasted four rather than two. So, not a fair matchup. But the Luscious Lemon frosting hit that perfect note of tart and sweet and toe-tingly.

Store decor: Kara’s is cute and sleek, not to mention they have a sweet-ass van that rolls around the neighborhood, frustratedly looking for parking all the time. Susiecakes is all pastels and whites, which is fine I guess.

Convenience: Kara’s has the aforementioned van, not to mention curbside service, and they are open for more hours. Derr.

Yumminess when drunk: Based on the carnage the following day, perhaps a draw.

Lasting power: But the next morning, we thought that Kara’s tasted almost as lovely as they had the day before – not so with the dried out Susiecakes.

Overall taste: Kara’s.

Overall weeeeener~! Kara’s!

I will leave you with Daniel’s master shot of the day - this gratuitous picture of a single sprinkle in focus~

Gratuitous!

Susiecakes
2109 Chestnut St
SF CA 94123

Kara’s Cupcakes [thank you for not making your name "Kupkakes"]
3249 Scott St
SF CA 94123
[Note: I do approve of you calling it your "Karavan."]

Bootie

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Face of an angel, soul of a pretzel killer

R2 has a bird named Bootie.  She is a cockatiel with adorable orange circles on her cheeks and the cute head tuft thing.

She is a notable bird, because she is <drumroll> TWENTY THREE YEARS OLD!  A normal cockatiel lives in captivity for only 15-20 years. I think she has lived so long because R2 takes amazing care of her. She goes to the vet three times a week for subcutaneous fluid injections and she gets fresh food and water every day.

["When did R2 become a bird guy?" asked Daniel yesterday. "Well, when he was eight his parents said he could get a turtle, a gerbil, or a bird, and the rest is history," I said. "Cute," said Daniel. "Best decision of my life!" said R2 from somewhere.]

She is also the world’s biggest grump. Get too close to her cage and she will hiss. It’s a cute hiss that begins with a consonant like keh! God forbid if you try to touch her – she will bite your finger (ineffectually since she’s but a tiny bird). If R2 puts her on your shoulder, she’ll instantly fly away (in this case, her hiss sounds suspiciously like ick!).

Well, she’ll try to fly. But she’s 23, so she can’t fly. In fact, she can’t even walk, because she has gout (she takes allopurinol just like humans) and has painful feet, one of which is frozen. Her pathetic-ness is so toe-curlingly adorable I can’t stand it.

But she has eyes only for R2. She is hopelessly devoted to him – mero mero as we say in Japanese. Her love for him is deeper than the Mariana Trench. When he goes out of town, the vet can tell because she loses weight out of sorrow. When he says “Booter!” she chirps her cutest chirp. When his mom says “Bootie!” she goes “Keh!” When they alternate calling her name, she goes “Chyerp!” “Keh!” “Chyerp!” “Keh!” Awesome.

Except not awesome, because all I want to do is love her and instead I curl up into a rejected ball while she snuggles with him IN THE BED. I just want to have her hop on my finger and we twirl in a happy, cheepy whirl, but instead she glares at me and opens her mouth menacingly should my finger go within an inch of her face. Sigh.

So, R2 is gone for the week for business, and I am birdsitting her! This entails KEEPING HER ALIVE, first and foremost. This means keeping her happy and not stressed, which will lead to eating so she doesn’t lose weight, and I have to take her to the vet twice, where her weight is recorded as an official decree of how well I do. PRESSUUUUURE.

So. Here we are. The two of us birds. I remembered that R2 was excited a while back because Bootie’s weight was 69 grams, so this was my goal weight for her vet visit yesterday. I also remembered that R2 said she loves pretzels. I also also remembered that he said that birds are social eaters – probably an evolutionary adaptation to avoid consuming poisonous food? But it works even when humans are eating too. So if R2 eats bread, she’ll eat bread. If R2 eats Triscuits, she’ll eat Triscuits. If R2 eats whole-grain Wheat Thins, she’ll eat whole-grain Wheat Thins. And if R2 eats pretzels, she will nom the shit out of an entire mini pretzel – almost 3% of her body weight.

I am used to this look by now

So I went and got pretzels at the market, came back, flicked the salt off of one of them, bit off a corner of one (so she could have a starting place – a pretzel is apparently too smooth and hard for her little beak to handle otherwise), held it through the bars of her cage a safe distance away, and bit into one myself.

At my first chomp, Bootie was like !!! and limped her way over and went Cookie Monster on that pretzel. And just like Cookie M., more of it got on my carpet than in her esophagus, but I was excited that she was eating. She ate so much of it that she came to the inevitable realization that the end of the pretzel was attached to something, and that something was ME, so she went PECK PECK at my finger, annoyed, and went over to her food dish and ate her regular food.

So began our pretzel binges. I’ve never eaten so many in my life. After that first time, I’ve had to eat at least four or five before she takes the bait and starts eating. She seems to respond to the CRUNCH CRUNCH noise so I have to generate this noise continuously, or she stops eating. To make crunch crunch noises constantly, I have to take many bites – in other words, eat many many pretzels. And since she is a super slow eater, it takes her five minutes to finish a pretzel, meaning I’m eating pretzels quickly and consecutively for five full minutes. I’m constantly thirsty because of the increased salt intake and they leave me less hungry for my proper meals, but it is worth it.

Before I took her to the vet yesterday, Daniel told me to feed her another pretzel before I went to get her weight up. “BUT MAKE SURE SHE DOESN’T POO!” Fuckitall. How was I going to do that?

I fed her a pretzel and she ate an entire one, so I thought it was in the bag. But then she pooed the biggest, most solid bird poo I’ve seen in my life, so I screamed “NOOOOOOO!” which may have scared her (great) and then when I reached in to grab her to put her in her travel cage her terror turned to fury and she struggled mightily (this would make a great Hyperbole and a Half post).

We got to the vet somewhat jerkily due to the way a SmartCar drives, but she seemed sleepy which is apparently a good sign according to her owner. When I got to the vet the people were like, “But…this looks like Bootie?” and I said “It IS Bootie. I’m the girlfriend,” and they looked at me like they had won the lottery and proceeded to talk my ear off.  Everything about me was fascinating to them. Where did R2 and I meet? Did I like Bootie? What were my thoughts on Star Wars? Even my Nook was interesting – “Is that an I-PAD?!?” “How long does the battery last?!” “Can we touch it?”

The vet tech came out and I shouted, “HOW MUCH DID SHE WEIGH!” and she said “Who are you?” and the others said “This is JANET, the GIRLFRIEND,” and she said “OH!” and then said “She weighed 71 grams!” and I said “YEEEEES!” and the others said “Write that down! That’s great!” and I drove home very happy.

R2 was lukewarm. He said “I am afraid that I am being replaced!” and I texted back “By me or by her?” all the while thinking to myself: probably both akshully, and he texted back “BOTH!”

But it’s not all roses and puppies and double rainbows (What does it MEAN?) in this household. At night her cage is covered by a blanket, but it’s not big enough to cover all the way to the bottom. On Wednesday night, she was I think growchy that I was still up and reading with the light on until past her bedtime, because she came from her perch up top all the way down to the bottom of the cage (which is a struggle for her with her gimpy feet), hissed at me five times, and then climbed back up. I obligingly turned off the light.

And then last night, I noticed her sleeping in her food dish. This is very cute – it is, in fact, one of the rules of cuteness so I was thrilled. But R2 was concernicus. He asked if my apartment was hot, and hypothesized that she was trying to get away from her heat lamp. I offered to turn it off but he said it was fine.

Dan: so how are you fixing the bootie food sleeping problem?
Me: i’m not
r2 says it was ok when i offered to unplug the heat lamp
i think she is just trying to be cute
Dan: she wants to impress you
Me: more like she’s trying to threaten me
“just when you think you know where i am, i’m in my food dish, bitch!”
Dan: lol
you have such a weird relationship with her
Me: why is my relationship weird!
she is the one who is mean to me
when i am sooo kind and only want good things for her
Dan: that’s why it is weird
it’s unbalanced
Me: ah.
well she’s a cranky old bird
she’s like any wild animal
who you want to feed and they end up killing you
Dan: is she big enough to kill you?
Me: no she’s 71 grams remember?
Dan: i dunno
could she go kamikaze and lodge herself in your throat while you sleep?
Me: she can’t fly
so even if she got out of her cage
she wouldn’t be able to get up onto the bed
Dan: hmm
so she’s planning something else…
Me: she IS inhibiting my sleep by nomming loudly on her food early in the morn
or…
AVIAN FLU
Dan: she is devious!@
she will weaken your immune system by depriving you of sleep
and then the avian flu will cause you to pass out in front of her cage
and then she will feast on you
Me: but i’m not pretzels!!

[R2 gets back Monday night...I will be sad to lose my alone time with Booticus Maximus but I can't wait to witness their glorious reunion because it will be epic.]

Europa Part Last – Mallorca

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Though equally wet, a different kind of money shot

R2 and I ended our Espana vacation extraordinaire in Mallorca. You probably assumed this was because Mallorca is a fabulous island in the Mediterranean sea and we wanted to wallow in luxury, but we actually came here because I live on a street called Mallorca, and R2 thought it would be neat to say we ended up exactly where we started.

Rom recommended Hotel Portixol to us. I was expecting some sort of insane resort that you’d find in Maui, but instead it was a small hotel that dripped of exclusivity, opulence, and splendor. The pool was heartbreakingly blue, and the bed was the best bed I’ve ever slept on (memory foam and the astronauts it was tested on can suck it).

You bet your butt I peed in it

I changed into my red, white, and blue bikini, which I wore to represent for America Fuck Yeah but which I realize now could have been for Cambodia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, or the Czech Republic, just to name the RW&B flagged countries that begin with “C.”

While R2 showed his Kindle off to the world, I tore myself away from the first Girl With book and looked at the poolside menu. We were NOT in Barcelona anymore, Totokins. The menu was in English, the server (immaculately clad in white white white) spoke English, and I had to search high and low to find anything resembling a bocadillo.

Pac-man trailing leaf-flames

But I did. I also found beef carpaccio with arugula and tomato. I also ordered a refreshing cocktail with Prosecco, something Kool-aid colored and berry-ey, and an unknown fruit/vegetable clinging to the edge. And even though I have told R2 a thousand times that mojitos are so 2005, he insists on ordering them always, so he got one.

Anyway, the carpaccio was smashing, though it could have been because we were ham-ed out, and also because I spent an inordinate amount of time constructing perfect bites over and over. Unlike other versions of this dish I’ve had, the accoutrements didn’t overpower.

Best shot from Spain IMO

Adam Carolla, when he was on Loveline, used to play Rich Man Poor Man, which was a game in which he tried to come up with things that were common to very poor people and very rich people, but not regular people. Things like “owns lots of dogs” and “has both a 23 year old kid and a 2 year old kid.” I think “going places on bicycle” could be one of those – poor people because they don’t has cars, and rich people because they’re on holiday at a swanktastic hotel in Mallorca just a beautiful bike ride away from the fancy restaurants in town. Accordingly, our hotel had bicycles that you could take as you pleased.

The bike path was, naturally, along the ocean, and just so lovely at sunset. R2′s bike seat didn’t adjust, so he had to stand-ride the whole way, but he was a good sport about it. Hard not to when this is your life:

I took this while one-handed biking and nearly died

The concierge (a blonde girl with an American accent that I didn’t buy – and it turns out that she was from Sweden I KNEW it!) booked us dinner at Forn (watch out for the loud music if you click on that link). There, we had a mini fight that was equal parts exhaustion from a long trip and unplaceable grumpiness that came from knowing the end of a fabulous vacation is rapidly nearing.

Mojitos special for 5 euros here goddamnit

It was a Gift of the Magi-esque kind of fight, where R2 assumed I wanted tapas instead of a sit-down dinner, so he was trying to make us not eat there, when I was fine with eating there and in fact wanted to, but was annoyed that he was mistakenly thinking I wanted to go to tapas and insisting on it, when it was clear to me that he wanted to eat there and not have tapas again and that was what I wanted too so what was the PROBLEM?

We were quickly distracted by strong cocktails (a cucumber martini for me) and napkins that started out the size and shape of a thimble but, once dropped in water, grew into the size and shape of a celery stick! Neato!

We had an exquisite (I know I throw that word around MTFB a lot, and I wish I didn’t because I should have saved the hullabahoo for this dish) gazpacho – thin as chicken broth but with tiny (I mean TINY – the size of birdseed) cubes of cucumber and red peppers suspended throughout. We also had the requisite pan spread with tomato (a dish I have recreated multiple times since – just grate a tomato, add olive oil, salt, pepper, and shablam – never need to use butter again, folks!)

I could have consumed this with a straw

Pictured above is cordero “a las 7 horas”, su jugo y cremoso de patata ahumada which I believe translates to lamb that has been cooked for seven hours. Have you noticed that these types of preparations, even in nice places, can sometimes have a displeasing gelatinous layer of fat in between the segments – soft as silk, but still disruptive to the textural experience? Well now that I’ve described that phenomenon to you in detail, I’m telling you that this had none of that. The fat was beautifully braised and rendered away – absolutely no knife necessary.

R2 had bacalao plancha, salteado espinacas, pasas y piñones y crema de parmensano - cod with spinach. Also great but not memorable, and could not stand up to the lamb-ey shreds still nestled in the back corners of my mouth (impacted wisdom teeth – what can ya do?).

We were presented with a complimentary digestive – a yellow fluid in a shot glass that tasted like licorice-y bird poo mixed with WD-40.

After getting some gelato nearby to wash our mouths of that unpleasant parting shot, we wobbled on our bikes back to the hotel and slept for 13 hours.

The next day we both woke up with colds. Fooey. We went to the beach and our throbbing heads were met with this, which didn’t help matters:

She should really brush the sand off her feet if she wants an even tan

To wash our mouths of THAT, we went to get something that we hadn’t gotten yet in Spain and were running out of time to eat – paella. We had avoided it thus far for two reasons. First, our guidebook says not to because in most cases it’ll be microwaved tourist gruel. Second, it’s tough for me with my extreme crustacean allergy (before killing me via windpipe swellage, they turn me into something that resembles Mickey Rourke. Or is it Mickey Rooney? Either or.) to find a paella that doesn’t have shrimp. Here, though, there were plenty of options and we ordered one with the ubiquitous bacalao.

Insert cornichon & olive joke here

While we waited, we hung out with Tweets McTweetserson and enjoyed a tinto de verano. The olives they provided were by no means outstanding, but the sun was so bright and the breeze was so delicious and our drinks were so much more tinto than verano so I was digging it all.

We also ordered calamares, which tasted like french fries.

Delicious confetti

Our server came out with a gigantic paella pan.  We were like, Oh Shit we cannot eat all that, but apparently it was just for show. Once she was satisfied with the duration and intensity of our admiration, she whisked it away, and came back with a large plateful.

It was a bit oily, and not saffroney enough (people the world over are so stingy with their saffron that I’m not even sure I know what it tastes like!), but the AZN in me screamed triumphantly just because I was eating RICE again. The lemony flakes of fish were perfectly interspersed with the rest of it all, and even if this was shitty allegedly microwaved paella (I’m not sure that it was akshully), this dumb gaijin couldn’t tell the difference.

Yellow and ricey – made for me

For our penultimate meal in Espana and our last proper dinner there, we biked up and down the coast of Mallorca to find the perfect place. We found a good-enough place called something obvious like TapasTapas or something, and we were locking up our bikes when I got an epic mosquito bite on my leg. Mosquito bites to you are probably minor annoyances. To me, they begin by bringing a flush to the entire half of whatever trunk the bite is on, and then it starts to swell, horrifically, directly along veins that run underneath, making the bite look like a fleshy mass with fleshy flesh tendrils growing out of it, that then turns into a gigantic bump that looked, in this case, like an additional calf muscle.

The least visually terrifying preparation of tentacles I’ve seen

Scared off of sitting outside, I instead chose a table in the middle of three other tables with smokers sitting at them. We ordered some of our favorites from cities past (patatas bravas, pan, bacalao croquetas) and sampled the weirdest-looking pintxos from the bar. Tapas wouldn’t be tapas without pulpo a la plancha (grilled octopus – R2′s new fave). While all of it was standard from a taste bud perspective, we ate it all with tears in our eyes (and I, one-handedly, while the other scratched the shit out of my leg) for this was our last tapas meal.

We were cheered by a discovery in our hotel lobby – a bathroom that had a training toilet in it for the chitlins. I was thrilled.  First rice and now MINIATURE VERSIONS OF THINGS? Be still my Hello Kitty heart!

Mr. Hankey Jr lives in there

We did our best to slumber off our respective colds, and the comfortableness of the bed did a great job in lulling me to sleep. The following day we were London-bound, but we biked over  for one last hurrah back into Palma to get one last bocadillo and perhaps an Estrella Damm (as I understand it, Spain’s answer to Budweiser) which we had also yet to consume.

Of course, we chose the one eatery where they didn’t have it. Souls = crushed. We had a final jamon y queso bocadillo, which was equal parts stringy and plastic tasting. Not the highest of high notes to end it all on, not to mention the illnesses that we were both battling, but our sleep tanks were so full and the sound of the ocean was so relaxing that we couldn’t help grinning our faces off.

Viva Espana~!

Oysters in Tomales Bay

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Choco is our resident SF guru. He organized a trip up to Tomales Bay to Tomales Bay Oyster Company to eat our hearts (and possibly our large intestines and colons) out with oysterrrs! We got there an hour and a half after our designated meeting time (and waited an hour and a half till the others got there), and R2 and I were like lost puppies.

Well, first, we had to get there. It was a little under an hour along the curvy roads of Highway 1. I was like, “I don’t understand. We’re totally landlocked. How can people grow oysters in dirt?” and then we turned exactly one more corner and there was water as far as the eye could see.  Not ocean, but, like, a bay (DERRR). We found the place (you can’t miss it, because it will be preceded by a half mile of cars parked along the road on both sides) and walked up.

It was like a BONANZA! Music, picnic tables, grills, water, dogs, sunglasses, suntan lotion, bikinis, TONS of Asians (why?) and OYSTERS. We wandered around, dazed, and ran into a table that was just being vacated. We agreed to share the table with a family wearing U$C shit (boooo!) until the table next door opened up, which it promptly did. Even though this family was uber nice and gave me and R2 sunscreen AND came over later to give us a grilled oyster, I still gave them a mini finger when they turned their backs. Heh heh. That’s what you get for just giving us ONE oyster to share for the two of us.

I fucking keep getting ahead of myself. We got to the table and looked around, at a loss. R2 had brought french bread, brie, red wine, white wine, a 24-pack of Deetch (what we call Diet Coke), a lemon, and Tabasco. Choco was supposed to bring us oyster cracking thingies and gloves and wisdom. Without him, all I could do was half heartedly take pictures of the dogs running around and all R2 could do was sit around and get sunburnt.

It’s like a rotten banana put on his favorite Euro-trash shirt to go clubbing

We soon said “FUCK THIS!” (well, R2 said “Shuck this!”) and marched over to the oyster stand, where a buncha tough looking guys would sling to the waiting customers big plastic mesh bags filled with oysters (slash clams, mussels). The kindly U$C motherfuckers had told us that if we wanted to eat them raw, we should stick to the extra small, and get larger ones only to BBQ. So we took their excellent advice and got a bag of 50 extra smalls for $35. We also shelled out (I punned too!) an exorbitant $15 for an oyster shucker and $5 for gloves.

The phrase “you’re doing it wrong” was invented for the folly that followed, at least for our first couple oysters. R2 had brought his dull Elvis knife, which he used to poke at his first oyster with his tongue sticking out the side of his mouth. I didn’t want to look uncool, but there was no reception there and I couldn’t look up how to do it on my iPhone so instead of being hesitant I fucking rammed the shucker into the side, wriggled my wrist, and cracked it open with a whispered YAHH.

Oysters are horrifying beings. They look like labia. The day was hot, and milky stuff was spewing out of where I had fatally injured the thing with my overzealous ram. Bits of shell – shrapnel – were lodged in its delicate flesh. Perhaps it stung when I squeezed lemon juice into its cuts and then, insult to injury, Tabasco.

I didn’t much care. I slurped it down, seawater (delicious oyster tears), seasoning, spewage, shell, and sweet, delicious oyster.

I reached for another.

Would you say minora or majora?

After five or so, we got quite good at our jimmy-rigged technique, though official tool designed to for the task > Elvis when it came to ease of shucking. Aside from the one that I cracked open only to find a tablespoon full of stinky mud inside, everything seemed ok. I discarded a number of them under the mantra “When in doubt throw it out,” but both of us ate well over 20 oysters each.

This despite there being no “r” in July, nor in the months sandwiching July, when eating oysters is like a reverse Russian Roulette where all but one chamber is filled. We had tickets to see Peter Pan 360 later on that day and I prayed for an aisle seat just in case horridness were to strike.

Incorrect form – you are supposed to put your palm on top, ya stupid shuck

On our last four oysters, a friendly gal came up to us and asked if we wanted her leftover cocktail sauce and horseradish. Um, YES. The oysters with these accoutrements were out of this world, and R2 and I both deeply lamented that we could only eat two each with these miracle toppings.

But then Choco showed up with his entourage, and they had accoutrements galore, including a wine bottle opener, which R2 and I had neglected to bring, a container full of pineapple (I ate the whole thing unabashedly without sharing), some fancy Cowgirl Creamery brie ([a], way to show us up with your expensive cheese, Choco >:| and [b] a runny cheese on a hot day is not a good combo with raw oysters), and CHARCOAL!  They went and bought 50 of the large oysters and started grilling and just eating them raw.

Amerrrica! Shuck yeah!

I was either being a baby by fearing eating the large oysters raw, or I was being a bitch by not warning the others who hadn’t been advised by those nice U$C assholes. Either way, I was a big old B and just kept quiet. My excuse was that I was hot and full of oyster, bacteria, and slime, not to mention buzzed from the unchilled white wine and was lulled into a headspace where I could only shovel pineapple into my mouth and gaze at the bay. R2 and I soon took our leave and drove back to the city…where I got off completely scot-free with NO bowel irregularity!  Boo yeah!

Tomales Bay Oyster Company
15479 Highway 1 | Marshall, CA | 94940
415.663.1242

Espana Part Four: Barcelona Part Two

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Do they really need ALL of us to hold them up? Don’t they has wings?

After our toothpicky fun, R2 and I went to the Barcelona cathedral – technically Catedral de Santa Eulalia de Barcelona. Saint Eulalia was a poor 13-year-old girl who was tortured 13 times by the Romans for refusing to recant her Christianity before being crucified on an X-shaped cross; this X appears on every pew and all over the catedral.

Until I wiki-ed it right now, I didn’t quite understand what “tortured 13 times” meant, but apparently this included cutting off her breasts, putting her into a barrel with glass or perhaps knives (details) and rolling her down a hill, and decapitation (at which point a dove allegedly flew out of her neck stump?).

Intensezors.

To lighten the mood, R2 said:

Catedral. CATedral. LOLCATedral. Get it? Wordplay.

Janet: [weakly] heh heh

R2: [insistent] LOLCATedral! …Where we sacrifice Buttins [Tinx's cat; see below] to Satan! …That’s YOU! [Satan is indeed my nickname in some circles] Didn’t you say you wanted to eat a beating snake heart? You can eat a beating kitteh heart!

Janet: [stares]

R2: [getting more desperate] Or a BUNNY!  But it has to be a CUTE bunny! A…white one! Virginal! It MUST be the cutest bunny on all the earth to satisfy the mighty and terrifying LOLCATedral gods!

Janet: I’m SO putting this in the blog.

R2: Noooo I’m gonna seem creepy!

Done and done.

The law clearly states you can’t do anything mean to me or my heart once my pupils reach a certain size

For dinner we did a Rick Steves-sanctioned tapas crawl in the Ribera district. We went to Taller de Tapas, which was a trendy and upscale tapas bar where we paid much money for standard fare. Standard meaning jamon de croquettes, bacalao de croquettes, deep fried artichoke, and pan. After a day of walking around, and after the tall pitcher of cava sangria (white sangria with bubbly) we had on the waterfront, we much enjoyed the food as efficient calorie-delivering vehicles.

R2 sang the word “balls” to the rhythm of that Shots song

Next we went to Sagardi, which sounded fun in the guidebook because it was a grab-whatever-you-want kind of place, and the actual establishment was HOPPIN. But as soon as we got there, I had brain/worm deja vu. And I looked farther down the bar and realized that ALL the tapas were identical to that we had seen earlier at Taverna Basca Irati which was a disappointment and a half since (a) we had eaten it all earlier and (b) we realized Rick Steves was playing favorites but trying to lie to us about it. Just to confirm, I looked at their menu, which had the same logo as Irati, thus confirming our suspicions. We said “PAH!” and stomped out (but not before eating a smoked salmon pintxo with nommalicious horseradish).

We put the guidebook away (why were we trusting a guy who (a) has two first names; and (b) has a weird already-pluralized last name so it’s confusing as to where to put the apostrophe in the first place?) and went into a smaller but still classy joint a little bit down the street. We were not given a menu but were commanded to order by a scary lady, so we just pointed to some things that were out on the bar. We ended up with some sort of meatball and some sort of fish stew.

Damnit did I use my R2 balls story already?

I wish wish wished the meatballs were lamb, but instead I think they were beef. The green olives nestled in there were the best part.

The fish stew was oilier than I preferred, but so salty it zinged all the way into my eyebrows (which I like).

R2 said “CLAMS CLAMS” like that robot Mafia dude on Futurama

I loved Espana, but I was missing cheese. Manchego is nice but as mild as butter. So we headed to Cheese Me, where we got a Spanish cheese plate.

The blue cheese on the slab was so sharp it made my mouth hurt and tingle thereafter for at least three minutes. It was sharp enough to the point that eating it became a game, akin to consuming Pop Rocks or Atomic Fireballs. I would play blue cheese roulette by going around the platter in a circle, making excited Wheel of Fortune noises when I got close to landing on the blue cheese.

I may have been massively drunk.

Chickens can’t make this – yet another reason why fowl sucks

The following day we went to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia – a super cool outing with dizzifying circular stairs up and down incredibly tall spires. I liked looking at Gaudi’s desk, which was preserved exactly as it was on the day of his death.

If you look closely, you can see his sack dinner hanging there. Apparently his dinner consisted of  two small slices of bread spread with honey and a small handful of raisins, thus proving to me that he might be an architectural genius, but he’s a glycemic index dumbass.

[Menacingly] I eat dinners like yours for BREAKFAST

Now that we knew that Rick Steves recs were generally American-friendly and chain-ey, we decided to do his “dark,” “rough-edged” tapas crawl that will “stain your journal” along Carrer de la Merce. We assumed that this meant, in normal speak, that this would be just a normal tapas crawl. And it was.

First was R2′s favorite resto and favorite dish in all of Spain, at La Pulperia. There, we had pulpo – octopus – a la plancha. It was grilled, salty, and flavorful, and rapidly cut up into bits by Mr. Pulpo (R2′s name for him) using scissors.

It’s ok it’s ok – that’s paprika on us, not blood

Then, to La Plata, which served only fried anchovies (FINALLY! We had been hunting for them since Madrid), salad, and super cheap keg wine. Fried anchovies might be my new popcorn.

Then, to a place not mentioned in the guidebook, but another one of our favorites. The people there were cheerful and friendly. We ordered sidra, the native hard cider, and appropriately marveled when he poured it out from the height of at least five feet over a barrel, and then promptly choked when the first sip hit our mouths. How do I describe it? Like a salty beer with a malty aftertaste that smells of apples. Not…great.

I assure you no walrus wants this bukkit

As we were politely suffering through our sidra, a family from New Orleans came over. The dad in the fam was clearly overserved, though in a jolly kind of way.

Dad: Now, that beef thang – HOW long is it aged?

Owner lady: Two years.

Dad: Now I’m talking about about that beef – that amazing beef. HOW long is it aged?

Owner lady: Two years. Yes, it is very delicious. Two years.

Dad: [to wife] Dang that beef was good. I asked her how long she thought it was aged but I couldn’t get a clear answer outta her. [To us] Y’ALL GOTTA TRY IT!

We obeyed.

We’ve been aged X number of years!

It was just like the luscious jamon, but this time with beef. Exactly in between ham and jerky. Well, perhaps more on the ham side. It was smoother and more deeply flavored than the jamon we had encountered, and was indeed worth getting riled up about.

We were chock full of food at this point, and couldn’t finish our entire plate, which deeply concerned both owner lady and owner man. We insisted that it was just because we were full, but they were unconvinced and to this day I wish I had just sucked it up and eaten it because their heartbroken eyes were too much to bear.

Leaving Barcelona was too much to bear. Luckily we were destined for the ultimate European beach holiday…in Mallorca!

Barcelona Part One

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Lucida says mmm

Phreww. Remind me never to go this long without posting again, because I just had to moderate 499 spam comments that had built up while I was slacking (shouldn’t have bothered – 100% of them were indeed spam) while I was getting into some shenans with my mom & sis and obsessed with the Millenium Triology and other busy-ness in the past couple of weeks.

The spammers are getting cleverer. Everything would be fine if I had friends who didn’t just comment “awesome!” but I do, so I have to read through them all.  I do this also because I’m guessing you don’t want to buy cheap Uggs, and I KNOW you don’t want FREE SEX VIDEO!!! right??

Some spam comments are obvy:

Intimately, the post is really the sweetest on this worthw hile topic. I harmonise with your conclusions and will thirstily look forward to your upcoming updates. Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the tremendous clarity in your writing. I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates. Genuine work and much success in your business enterprize!

Nevermind that it’s all true – it’s still spam, ya dingus!  My favorite by far, though, and one I almost let through for its sheer weirdness:

Shakespeare’s feeble attempt; Mehears the lady LOL, mehopes not at mine nether hole

So, returning to the Europa Vacation-of-Lifetime, R2 and I arrived in Barcelona for a three-night stay. Just like in Madrid,  we had not thought to look up how to get to our hotel, so all we had was an address. After asking two people who not only didn’t know but also hated us for asking, a subway employee pointed to a stop on the metro map and made a slow heil Hitler motion.

We got off at the designated station and I found a random map and figured out the direction of our hotel. Then we realized as we huffed and puffed uphill that that’s what the guy meant – go uphill after exiting the station.

We stayed at Hotel Medium Aristol and were greeted by Ibo, who was truly awesome. Kind, cute, silly, friendly, incredibly informative, go-out-of-way-ey, stylish, cool.  R2 and I discussed how we would write a letter to Hotel Medium management and demand that he be promoted.  Also we planned to mail him our leftover metro card that still had like five rides on it.  We have done neither, shoot.

Thin and limp – bad for peens, good for jamon.

Ibo recommended that we go to the Joanic area of Barcelona, where apparently there is fun nightlife and tons of places to eat.  We obeyed and found a cute open square where a cafe had set up tons of tables for al fresco dining.  I got a big old beer (Chimay Rioja – a wine beer??) and we hit the top four classics of tapas – jamon (ham), pan (bread with tomato topping), patatas bravas (potatotes, fried) and croquetas de bacalao (mmm deep fried fish stick thingies filled with a luscious salted cod mousse).

True to late-eating-even-for-Espana form, we closed out the cafe, lost our nerve when we attempted to go into a seedy local-ey bar, and instead went to a tiki-vibed bar that stank of expats.  Here, R2 had a drink called “Monkey’s Lunch” which was full of bananas and Bailey’s and I’m sure Kahlua and was frothy and yummy and would have made true Spain lovers ashamed of us for being so safe.

The next day, we took a walk down the Ramblas where we saw all manner of animal for sale.  But you already know all about that. We also went into La Boqueria market – an amateur food photographer’s dream.

Even as a frog phobic I could stomach (get it?) this


Pineapple kind of looks like pound cake


Everything here will blow out your butthole


Pictured above –  some fresh squeezed juices.  If we ever have a proper fight R2 gets an automatic pass, because when we purchased a kiwi & coconut juice, he said “Let’s get another one” and I said “no” like a fucktard.  This is my greatest regret.  Stupidballs!  Gah.

Pictured top were strips of ham marketed like french fries.  I could only giggle at the wonderfulness of it all as I sucked them down like they were spaghetti.

For lunch proper, we went to a Rick Steves recommended pintxo bar. It was Taverna Basca Irati, and it has 40 kinds of hot and cold Basque pintxos (smaller tapas, usually on a slice of bread) where you pay by the honor system – you are charged for the number of toothpicks on your plate.

They kind of remind me of the things in Nausicaa

It was empty at the weird time that we went, smack in the middle of siesta.  Our server, a guy who looked like Spanish from Old School, made our tinto de veranos with extreme love and care, and so I loved him in return.  The emptiness meant we had our pick of the pintxos and gleefully bounded from one end of the bar to the other, grabbing pintxos at random.

Brains with worms on them


TWO kinds of caviar? Your awesomeness is crushing the bread below

Despite all the fanciness and prettiness, my favorite was just a hunk of bread with a lone spicy sausage toothpicked awkwardly on top. We overstuffed ourselves and even though the pintxos were 1.50 euro each, racked up a gigantic bill, natch.

So, I learned that people prefer shorter posts and more frequent posts, which is orthogonal to my style, but I’m going to try. Next will be Barcelona Part Two, in which I tell a story that R2 has begged me not to tell because it’ll make him look creepy.

Espana Part II: Toledo

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

“Holy Toledo” is what R2′s FB status was when we went here. Toledo was a relatively spur-of-the-moment stop for us – we wanted to stay in a parador (a state-run converted castle) and this one was the closest one to an AVE (high speed train) stop. Just thirty minutes south of Madrid, the Parador de Toledo is on a hill outside of the main city with fucking KILLER views. The picture above, taken with the panorama function on The Kraken, barely got taken because both R2 and I were subject to a sudden spider cloud ambush. Horror and squeals. Except R2 was taking a photo of some English tourists for them at the time, one of whom said “You’re one hundred times bigger than that spider!” so he couldn’t squeal at the monstrous arachnid dangling from his elbow. [He kind of just stopped breathing and trembled until I rescued him and killt it.]

This was the view from our balcony. Our room was clean and bright and atmospheric and had a canopy and warm tile floors and I loved it.

The city proper (the entire city has been declared a national monument) is two winding miles away and everything you want in a vacation spot. Tiny streets barely the wider than most of your flat screen TVs, all cobblestoned and meandering down and up and down and up with charming doorways and stores and – SMACK! Right into the most gorgeous cathedral I’ve ever, ever, ever been in. The Toledo Cathedral does not allow photographs, unfortunately, but even compared to later cathedrals (Sagrada Familia, Barcelona Catedral) that are bigger and more famouser, this one was just breathtaking. It was all I could do to not burst into flames, it was so beautiful and spiritual.

Plaza de Zocodover is the main square in tiny Toledo, and all roads lead back to it. We stopped at a cafe on the square and I had my first experience with churros.

We did it wrong, totally.  They had clearly been sitting out forever, and were cold and salty (?) and I didn’t get a hot chocolate as one was supposed to so I was dunking them in cafe solo (black). I huffed a little and wished I was at Disneyland but then realized I was in fucking SPAIN so I snapped out of it.

Across the street to Santo Tome, purveyor of Toledo’s specialty, mazapan (marzipan). All these online reviews say their website is great, and it should be, since they’ve snagged mazapan.com.

I adore almond flavoring. I also adore nondescript globs of things. From soft (flan) to hard (Lemonheads). As I type this now, I’ve had to text “I WANT MAZAPAN” to R2. Twice.

We then went, based on Rick Steves’ recommendation, to Cafeteria Cason Lopez de Toledo. It’s the cheaper version of the fancy restaurant “located upstairs in an old noble palace,” specializing in “Castilian food, particularly venison and partridge.” The cafeteria version, “…while called a ‘cafeteria,’ is actually a quality restaurant in its own right…where the locals dine, enjoying the fancy restaurant’s kitchen at half the price.” Sounds great!

We showed up at eight, apparently too early for them, for the restaurant was empty and the waitstaff kept rolling in for work after we were practically done. But methinks the restaurant was empty for other reasons…

They had a 11 euro prix fixe deal, and our amuse (?) was the mussel … ceviche? Shown above. Ceviche doesn’t technically contain raw fish, since the acid from the lemon/citrus “cooks” it. These looked pretty raw, however.

R2 picked one up and noticed a bunch of hairy … things coming out of the blowhole of one of them. He (with effort – shudderrr) yanked them out, and not knowing what to do, threw the hairy bundle onto the ground. I didn’t tell him at the time for reasons that will become apparent, but it reminded me of a particularly horrific wart I got on my toe in middle school in moist and humid Tokyo. The Japanese name for that type of wart is uwonome, which in English means fish eye. My specific wart, though, looked just like the thing in the mussel – a circular ring with skin formations that looked like tiny hairs poking out the center. I just vommed a little thinking about it.

Anyway, I ate one and thought “FISHAY!” R2 went for the now-de-haired one but I stopped him. He put that one aside and picked up another one and popped it into his mouth.

“I still can’t get over how beautiful that cathedral was. And it’s crazy to think that it’s tucked away here in this random cit–”

I looked over to R2 at that moment and stopped talking, because R2′s face had gone from his usual Jew-pale to an ashen, translucent putty color, streaked through with green.

“ARE YOU OK?”

“GULP.”

“NOOO DON’T SWALLOW EET!”

He swallowed it. And proceeded to look shaken for the rest of the meal (I think he was actually shaking), with perspiration at his hairline. Poor thing.

He also had the bad luck to have ordered gazpacho, which in this case apparently meant salmon gazpacho. Cold soup when you feel like you want to mon (the opposite of nom get it?) is not great, but an intensely fishy cold soup with cheese on top…R2 is only a man, after all.

I told him he didn’t have to finish it and offered him some of my salad, which came with white asparagus, which I love (this is the nicest thing I can say about this place – that they happened to serve something out of a can that I like) but also with tuna mixed throughout the lettuce. This resto really loves their fishy meme.

The server, noticing that R2 had barely touched his soup, grew concerned. She asked if he wanted a salad like mine? Did he not like his soup? What else would he like instead? and R2, in a trembling voice, insisted “…me…me gusta!”

I had to give it to him – he delivered this lie without crying.

Bad luck upon bad luck, R2 had ordered a fish dish as his entree. I stole it quickly away from him. The fish wasn’t bad – it was just normal.

In return, I gave him my scalloped beef with potatoes. Again, it wasn’t fabulous, but the potatoes settled his tum I think. After this was flan and bread pudding, which R2 tore into to wash the whole tragedy of a meal down.

As we walked (he, shakily) out of the restaurant, we decided we could not end our night on that note (they didn’t even have the promised venison OR partridge, jyerks!), so we decided to go to a wine bar, once again recommended by Rick Steves.

Adolfo Vinoteca is the wine bar of the highly respected local chef Adolfo, who runs a famous gourmet restaurant across the street. His hope: to introduce the younger generation to the culture of fine food and wine. The bar offers up a pricey but always top-notch list of gourmet plates and fine local wines per glass – don’t economize here. Adolfo’s son, Javier, proved to me the importance of matching each plate with the right wine. I like to sit next to the kitchen to be near the creative action. If the Starship Enterprise had a Spanish wine-and-tapas bar on its holodeck, this would be it.”

Guess, just GUESS which part of that description sang to R2.

We went, and had to double check that it was still open, since it, too was empty. But they had both partridge AND venison on their menu, so we ordered both (both came as stews; the partridge dish was described as partridge with discolored beans lol). We asked, in accordance with Rick, for them to pair a wine with it, and our server was like, “???” and we said, you know, what wine would go well with the dishes we’ve ordered? and he was like, “?? Well, we have red wine and white wine.” And we said no, like, what specific wine would go with the partridge and the venison? and he finally, seemingly haphazardly, said, “this wine is very good.”

They first brought out what we encountered often in Toledo – a potato salad sandwich. Just the thought churns the stomach, and this one had cooked soft carrots which I found highly displeasing, and it was all on one of those airplane-esque yucky rolls. Particularly on the heels of our prior meal and on a full stomach on top of that, I couldn’t enjoy it (but you better fucking believe I ate it).

Who knew discoloration was so delicious? I heard from my friend Saxy that beans help cure nausea (this came up at a chili cook-off when she was in that particularly pukey stage of pregnancy) and perhaps this was why I fished out and ate most of the beans. The partridge tasted like any other bird, though tender and flavorful.

I knew even before I ate it what word was going to come out of my mouth after I ate the venison: gamey. Of the two, I liked the partridge better than the venison.

But I realize as of Saturday that I had no inkling what gamey meant until I had a slice of ostrich at the Bellagio buffet. Holy shit that’s like the Cranium of meats right there.

Anyhoo, it really was a shame that we didn’t just come here, as we didn’t have the stomach space or fortitude to truly enjoy their offerings.

We walked out, back to the Plaza, a little bit scared now that it was very dark and the tiny streets were so confusing. Rick Steves said Toledo’s “medieval atmosphere” was vibrant and “wonderful after dark.” I am looking down at my iPhone notes and I believe right about then is when I typed “Rick Steves needs to check his shit.”

The following day we decided to take full advantage of our parador and swim, laze around, sun, read, and lunch at the parador’s own restaurant before taking the AVE to Barcelona. We were seated in the midst of three Japanese dantai tours – each with over 20 middle-aged, chatty, beer-drinking Japaneezy tourists. I love how my people booze it up at every meal – lunchtime and even the tiniest of little ladies was three-drinks deep.

OMG not here too! High brow though the little tart cups may have been, it was still the same god-awful potato salad shit.

I mean, I confess I’ve dipped my KFC biscuits into my KFC mashed potatoes before (hasn’t everyone?) but starch on starch does not a pleasing bite make!

My app was roasted red pepper cradled around fish mousse. R2 the amnesiac scarfed it up, while I was a little bit turned off by the fishiness (why the hell were we eating so much seafood in land-locked Toledo anyway? God we suck.)

R2′s app was a salad of some sort; overdressed and with canned (?!) mushrooms at the bottom; not my favorite and until I figured out they were mushrooms, I paranoid-ly thought that it was a squeaky, chewy, sour fish of some sort.

I just kept working through the half-bottle of white wine that I ordered.

His entree was something I want to eat when I’m drunk, with beer. It was their special – the Don Quixote, with over-easy egg, chorizo, and fried bread crumbs. R2 loves eggs, LOVES chorizo, and LOVE LOVE LOVES Don Quixote (for his thirteenth birthday he asked only for a copy of Don Quixote, which his dad got him – used – for $6.95).

Against ALL common sense, I had ordered pulpo a la plancha (that’s grilled octopus) for my entree.

My reasoning was this – octopus isn’t fishy. If anything, it’s reminiscent more of chicken, or even pork. Plus – can you say blogworthyyyy?

Something I learned in Spain – octopus needs to be grilled for a long time to render out the very very thick layer of fat between the skin and the meat. I started at the tip, which was salty and crunchy and the tiny suction cups popped in my mouth like crispy caviar. Awesome and tasty. As I ate my way up the tentacle, however, I encountered said fat and the shiver started from my toes and took a full 10 seconds to work its way up into my eyebrows. I mean, unrendered fat is gross. Fishy unrendered fat – even grosser. Packaged in a very raw-looking, giant slab of slime – it was very hard not to faint on the spot.

Am I losing my foodie mojo? I wondered.

I refuse to think that. I think Toledo is just a food wasteland. Definitely, definitely go, but stick to bocadillos and for the love of god avoid anything with tendrils coming out of it.

Up next…Barcelona!

Espana Part I: Madrid

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Listen up!  In Spain there is a magical thing called jamon iberico. It’s cured ham made from pigs that are fed only on acorns. In my head, there is a magical lush green expanse where pink, pink pigulets trot around flipping smooth rocks over with their snouts and crunching on acorms that they ferret out from underneath.

In reality, I’m sure it’s just as horrifying as this episode of This American Life where they do nothing but eat and hang out in a concrete box and squirt out baby pigs thereby making sound guys vom.

How did I get there? I was intending on talking about our first stop in Spain, Madrid. We got our feet wet by going to the most Americaney joint in town, Casa Botin. But wait, there was a REASON why we went there – because it is the World’s Oldest Restaurant, certified by Guinness Book. Further, we were told about its specialty – roast suckling pig, which has crackling skin and is allegedly so tender that they slice through them with plates rather than knives, purportedly just to be fucking showoffs.

We walked into the resto barely before closing time – in SPAIN, where 9 pm is an afternoon snack. Go us. The kindly gentleman at the front led us to a charming corner table upstairs, squarely in between American couple #1 and American couple #3 (we were #2). Couple #1 was having a fight. The chick was a real gooshbag and was picking at her poor boyfriend. Apparently her friend had called him while the two of them were broken up and she JUST didn’t understand that. She said, “I guess I don’t have girlfriends because I’m not close to my mother.” He kinda grunted, and she said, “I JUST had a MAJOR breakthrough and YOU don’t! even! care!” and he, who must have noticed me and R2 INTENTLY listening while trying not to appear so [R2's mouth was open and he was straight up staring, so it was obvy] said, “I don’t care! Why are you telling me this! If we were on our first date I would think you were CRAZY!”

On the other side was a couple where the guy was, in R2′s words, a classic B-level frat guy (who still spoke more Spanish than we did *shame*) who we played the Drunk or Douchebag game with. We both decided on Drunk, and I thought it was rather cute how she would pick up her sangria glass and he would pound his fists on the table and shout “Drink! Drink! Drink!” and adoringly haze her.

We ordered garlic soup with egg, artichoke hearts with jamon, baby squids in their own ink, and the aforementioned pig.

The squids were beyond tender. Like chewing gum when you’ve had it in your mouth for three hours – but in a good way. The ink was umami-licious, and my Japaneezy palate didn’t even register that my food might be Fear Factor-ey to R2, who later confessed that he was scared of it. He who eats EVERYTHING! Shocked.

“Beyond tender” is a good descriptor for the suckling pig, as well.  I stole bits of it away in the most wonderful way – by making tiny roast suckling pig burritos where the innards were swine and the “tortilla” was crackling, crispy fatty pig skin.

And if you know me, you know that I instantly snapped off the pig tail and crunched it up. It tasted exactly like a pork rind.

At midnight, we toasted R2′s hatch day with a swig of sangria that tasted like four-times concentrated Kool-aid, which he loved of course and made me shudder for a good minute.

The next day, we went to the Palace, which was, well, palace-y. Which unless you see it you don’t really understand just what it means that there’s a fucking HUGE palace where, like, two people were meant to live, and the whole thing is gaudy and gorgeous and gratuitous. We were not shown the kitchen (nor the aseos) but we did get to walk through the Smoking Room, which was designed to look like a Chinese opium den (Chinese things were very trendy at the time of Isabella and Ferdinand) and there was no furniture – just pillows that lined the entire floor. You don’t have to be a cat to be thrilled with that idea.

We lunched at the Palace cafeteria, where we had our very first bocadillo (sandwich).

Pardon the chewed-up-ness of this. I just tore into it and was almost three inches deep when R2 said gently, “Did you want to blog that though?”

We also had a Kas, which tasted like a Sprite.

This made me angry, because I went to Europe to get AWAY from sugared drinks and there wasn’t an agua con gas (fizzy water) in sight.


From there we meandered to Plaza del Sol, where we got some gelato and sat by the fountain where all the pickpockets in Madrid converge. We came up with a new abbreviation for them: “pee-po” and turned it into a verb “did you get pee-po-ed?” “nope, I didn’t get pee-po-ed yet” and watched a costumed character Homer Simpson walk around, along with a Winnie the Pooh. Winnie is already obscene in that he doesn’t wear pants, but THIS Winnie didn’t even have a shirt!

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by an awesomely atmospheric (dingy, dark, dirty, dotted with old video game machines here and there) cafeteria for a coffee, which was staffed by a big, burly, debonair man who looked so out of place – probably was a spy/assassin/spysassin on his off hours. R2 sidled up to the bar and, without betraying a quiver in his voice, said, “Dos…cafe…UNO…con…leche” and sat back, quite proud of himself. Spysassin said, “Skfj a;lkerja lwekjral skjdf ?” and R2 said, “?” and Spysassin said, “Do you speak English?” and R2 said, dejectedly, “Yes. Two coffees, please, one black and one with milk.” Fail.

So, quite awesomely, Sharisa and her hubby Tron were in Madrid at the same time as us, for one night only. Since neither of us had cellphones in Spain, we had made plans two weeks earlier to stay in the same hotel and meet in the lobby at 4:30 on the 18th after their train got in. But, R2 and I couldn’t get our act together (meaning we couldn’t wake up till 1:30 in the afternoon) and so I left a note at the front desk telling them to meet us at 7 pm instead. But when we got back to the hotel at 6, I spied the note in the cubbyhole for room 204 still sitting there. The attendant confirmed that they had not picked up the message. PANIC! They didn’t get it?! Did they wait for us at 4:30 and then give up and leave? Were R2 and I going to spend his hatchday sadly picking through delicious tapas with just the two of us??

I wallowed and then called their room to at try to leave a message. No answer. Dejection. I ignored common sense and immediately called again. And then – ! “Hello?” “SHARISA?!” “Hii Janay!”

YEEES! It turns out that they HAD gotten the message. In fact, hotel staff had typed up my (rather silly, tilde- and heart- and obscenity-filled) handwritten message and somehow beamed it onto their TV screen?

Reunited happily, the four of us went to La Latina, a cute neighborhood chock full of tapas bars. Our first stop was a place that I can’t remember the name of – Google Maps makes me think it was Taverna Txakoli but hard to tell for sure since they don’t have Street View here yet I guess. Perhaps Sharisa will enlighten us in the comments.

I. Was. SO. EXCITED! My first tapas bar – and a pintxo bar at that – where yummy things sitting on small slices of bread are out for the taking.

This was their “hamburger” pintxo – jamon, mustard, quail egg, and a cute french fry spear on top!

Why didn’t we get this? We’re stupid Americans, for god’s sake! Instead we veered away and got the following.

Sharisa’s spidey sense tingled. She said, “morcilla…I can’t quite remember what that is…” and trailed off and didn’t eat any of it. R2 and I dug in mightily. Couldn’t tell what any of it was but we liked it. We also had a classic pintxo with bacalao (salt cod) and red pepper on it, another one with tortilla con jamon y bacon (not tortilla like we know but an egg dish, kind of like a fritatta),  and tinto de verano (red wine mixed with sparkling water/Sprite, depending) all around! [Thank you guys for teaching us this drink, as we drank it as if our life depended on it for the rest of our trip.]

Buoyed by the wine and company and sheer relief that we actually managed to meet up with Sharisa (who was walking around on a SPRAINED ANKLE! Way to rally, my dear), I was in the mood to make a sweeping gesture at the entire line of pintxos, shout “ONE OF EACH – FOR EVERYONE HERE!” and take off my top, but  instead we went next door to Cafe Lucas.

Here, we got an English menu, where it said morcilla again. We asked our server what that meant and he said “blood sausage” to which Sharisa and Tron visibly blanched. I was rather shocked because Sharisa is the OG Foodie. The waiter also took notice and said, “This is my favorite thing!” so we ordered it, along with one we got that had pork and corn mousse on top with a soy glaze and some chicken one. The morcilla didn’t look like sausage at all – it looked like black sloppy joe. We all took a bite and made high-pitched “hmm!” noises. I quite enjoyed it, even the potentially icky lingering metallic taste at the back of my tongue.

We then went to Chato, but it was closed. So we went to the parakeet place, which had parakeets in a cage outside. Sanitation be damned! It worked really well – not a soul walked by without cooing, and the boids netted about 30% of passers-by when it came to actual people walking in and ordering.

Here we ordered my most favorite tapas dish in all of spain – bread with mojama (wind-dried tuna, which tasted like a softer, fishier turkey jerky) and a deep-fried almond on top. It sounds like nothing but was truly a revelation. We also got smoked cod with fresh tomato, which was intensely fishy but I didn’t mind.

We then meandered to another bar, which struck Tron as too claustrophobic, so we went to another place, more wine bar than tapas bar, but we weren’t feeling it so we left. But then we decided to go back, where the sort-of miffed bartender became even miffier when we asked for a tinto de verano. He only had REAL wine, apparently. Which was fine with me, as I was kiiiind of starting to perish from the sweetness of the TDVs. We all ordered riojas, and then, even though none of us is a smoker, and just because we could, had a cigarette INDOORS! What a country, what a country.

Next, we lolled our way into an open square and sat down to have a TDV al fresco. THIS server didn’t frown upon us for ordering our un-manly refreshment, and in fact served them to us with bendy straws. <3 Here, we talked about our favorite cities (cities that came up: San Francisco, Vancouver, and Sharisa’s favorite city in the WHOLE WORLD, Sevilla).

But then we realized that everywhere with food closed at midnight, so we scurried back down the street to find one last joint. We did, in the nick of time at 11:59, where a very growch man hacked off some slices of the hallowed jamon iberico and threw some patatas bravas into the microwave.

You see, each place has a huge leg of jamon on display, and that’s where they cut off the thin slices. And when an intruder comes in, you also have a handy and delicious weapon.

We then jumped in a cab, hoping to make it to a sherry place that Tron had gone to some night prior and loved – La Venencia, I believe. We walked in only to be told that they were closed, and no amount of imploring in mangled Spanish could change the owner’s mind. A pity, because my heart was pitter pattering seeing the old sherry bottles lining the walls, some with dust a centimeter thick covering them. Cooooooool.

Instead we went to a bar where they played Beyonce.

When we tired of that, we retired to our hotel, where we played with Tron’s iPad and Sharisa iced her ankle. We were so sad to see them go, but we were onto our own adventures, sans any Spanish ability and friends to hold our hands.

Up next…Toledo.