Monday, March 27, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/26/17: Jamestown Settlement, Brewery Visits, Birthday Dinner at Fat Tuna

1. We hung around our room for the morning so the Deke could make more progress on getting grades completed. Soon, we piled into the Sube and buzzed north and east to the James River to visit the Jamestown Settlement and to learn more about the economic hopes and physical and mental tribulations of this project, the delicate relations with the Powhatan tribe, and the introduction of slaves. We walked the grounds of the recreation of the settlement, visited the Powhatan Indian village, and gazed upon the recreation of the ships built to transport people and supplies to and from Jamestown.

2. Museum fatigue started to creep in on the Deke and me, so we decided to check out Aleswerk, a brewery in Williamsburg we knew nothing about. The tasting room was quiet. Most people were seated outdoors listening to a duo playing string music and a guy singing. We ordered a flight and loved Aleswerk's beer and had a great chat with the guy who served us. Just down the street we had seen The Brass Cannon brewery and so we stopped in to sample some of their beer and agreed that while the beer was fine, we'd probably not return if we were in the area again.

3. The best of times lay ahead of us. In order to redeem the birthday money Mom had given us back in December with the expressed purpose of treating ourselves to a nice dinner, I had reserved us a table at Fat Tuna Grill and Oyster Bar in Williamsburg. Lord! What a superb choice! We got seated and our very capable and friendly server went over the oyster menu with us and we ordered a dozen oysters, four each of three different types, and a shot of Knob Creek Whiskey. The oysters were superb and so we ordered six more and a plate of superb calamari. It was becoming clear that neither of us wanted to order a dinner, but we thought we'd top off the night with a half a pound of unpeeled shrimp and they were the freshest, sweetest, most delicious shrimp we had ever eaten. We both loved our birthday dinner and the combination of whiskey and seafood and were very grateful to Mom for giving us such a thoughtful and tasty gift.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/25/17: The American Revolution, Perfect Matinee at the Bar, Outside at Traditions

1. The Deke and I sprang into action this morning, piled into the Sube, and set out on a 3+ hour drive to Yorktown, VA for a weekend vacation. We hit stop and go traffic on I-95 after the E-Z Pass Express Lanes ended, slowing us down a bit, but we were patient and arrived in Yorktown a little after two. We went straight to the American Revolution Museum and watched an odd film about liberty and then dove into the permanent exhibits and spent some time at the outdoor encampment and saw, but didn't visit, the museum's replication of a colonial farm a ways off. We knew we could never take in this whole museum. We enjoyed what we had the energy to look at and read about. I left the museum thinking more about the economic dilemma its colonizing project put England in. England profited from the tobacco and sugar and other products it extracted from the U. S. colonies, but financing, occupying, securing, and administering the colonies was costly and difficult to manage. If I ever return to this museum and if I do any follow up reading, I'll be the most interested in looking into the economic demands and administrative difficulties of colonizing another land and of being a force of occupation.

2.  The Deke and I then drove a short ways to the Water Street Grille overlooking the York River. We snagged a couple seats at the bar in the round and enjoyed the marine breeze blowing through the joint and settled into some superb beers. Never in my life have I tried a beer from Clown Shoes Brewing up in Ipswich, MA, and I ordered a snifter of Space Cake 2IPA and it was perfect. The Deke went for Lagunita's splendid and sweet Imperial Brown Ale, Brown Shugga'. As our happiness grew, we decided to bump it up to just shy of ecstasy. We ordered calamari drizzled with an awesome sweet and sour chili sauce and balsamic glaze. With visions of redcoats and minutemen dancing in our heads, the Deke broke off and headed to a bench overlooking the river and I stuck around the bar long enough to drink 4 oz. of Blue Mountain Brewing's Sour Geist, a peachy wild ale, perfectly fruity and sour, just what I love in a dessert beer. I then joined the Deke at the bench she'd found. The temperature was in the 70s. The breeze was refreshing. We gazed out over the York River, relaxed, carefree (for the moment), enjoying the union of beer, calamari, water, slight wind, and one another's company.

3.  Our studio suite at the Staybridge was about twenty minutes or so away from Water Street and, once we got checked in, I told the Deke that we were fairly close to a brewery in Newport News. We bolted out the door and buzzed to Traditions Brewery. Had it not been so gorgeous outside, we wouldn't have stayed because the spacious concrete tasting room was hosting a loud live electric band who was playing "Sailing" by Christopher Cross as we headed to the bar. The Deke got right out of there and found us a place to sit outside and I ordered a red ale and an Irish stout and joined the Deke and we enjoyed the evening/night air and the low ABV beer so much that we just kept talking and watching people and didn't really want to leave. But we did. We bought a bag of popcorn to microwave in our suite at the Staybridge. I marveled at the Oregon/Kansas score, stunned that the Ducks beat the Jayhawks so handily, and I enjoyed and appreciated Terry Turner's texts to me, filling me in on what the Ducks did so well in order to defeat the Jayhawks. Wow! The Zags and the Ducks are in the Final Four.  I never ever even dreamed this would ever happen.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/24/17: Trip Preparation, Our Grandkids Loved the Chicken, Quiet/Bliss

1. Aside from Alexandria and Mt. Vernon, the Deke and I have never traveled in Virginia. The Deke has a three day weekend coming up and we have decided to stay in Yorktown so we can visit the American Revolution War Museum and visit the Jamestown Settlement. I managed to do a little preparation for our trip by getting some laundry done.

2. Molly and Hiram are going to take care of Maggie and Charly while we are away and late this afternoon the Deke and I delivered the dogs to their house. I volunteered to cook and deliver some dinner. A week or so ago I had bought one of those packs of 89,000 chicken thighs at Costco and today I thawed eight thighs, fixed a flour mixture of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. I heated a shallow pool of olive oil in our larger cast iron pan and for a short amount of time fried the chicken really hot on both sides and then turned down the heat and let the pieces continue to cook slowly for forty-five minutes or so, turning them over from time to time. The result?  A FIRST! David and Olivia liked something I cooked! I nearly wept with joy. The adults all loved the chicken, but, wow, I cooked food pleasing to David and Olivia. It was the snow-capped summit of my life in the kitchen.

3.  Most of the time, our dogs are quiet. They spend a lot of time relaxing on the couch and especially enjoy when the Deke is home to sit with them. That said, we never know when something outside or in the building might excite their barking. Tonight, we didn't have to think about that. The dogs were at the Diazes. The silence was blissful. The Deke and I sat in the quiet of our apartment home. About one pour a piece was left in our bottle of Redemption Rye Whiskey and we enjoyed it as we read. I silently looked back over the day's news in Washington, D. C. and at basketball scores. We soon retired to bed, barely a sound anywhere.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/23/17: Finally Got Goin', Concrete and Recovery, With Mary at Hank's Oyster Bar

1. I lollygagged for much of the day, checking in from time to time on the negotiations underway in the House of Representatives and with members of the Trump Administration, wondering if the AHCA would come to a vote today, as planned. I finally left our apartment home in the afternoon to get some groceries so I could fix the Deke some dinner. I had plans to eat on Capitol Hill tonight with Mary and, knowing the Deke would be exhausted after work, wanted to save her the trouble of having to fix her own dinner. I fixed one of our favorite standbys, black beans and rice.

2. Mary was down from NYC to attend a conference in D. C.  and she and I made a plan to meet at 6:00 near the Shake Shack and Starbucks in Union Station. I was a little bit late getting on the road to meet her, but then I got seriously delayed by something I've never experienced at Union Station. The Union Station parking garage has two entrances, on on Mass. Ave. and the other on H Street. I find the Mass. Ave. a little easier to get to and when I drove to it today it was barricaded by concrete barriers.  Now I had to figure out how to get over to N. Capitol Street, turn east on H Street, and see if that entry was open.  I drove to F Street, slight disoriented, and took a chance on a right hand turn on 2nd and it worked out because soon, Mass. Ave. appeared in my windshield.  Ah! Now I knew exactly what to do and eventually the barrier-less H Street entrance welcomed me, once I got out of the taxi lane (no problem, btw) and I snagged a first-rate parking spot on Level 1. At a red light, I'd been able to cryptically text Mary I'd run into a parking problem, so please be patient (!), and so when I was a half an hour late to meet her, she knew I was all right.   I was especially excited to see Mary again and I was also pumped up that I overcame the parking challenge those (mysterious) concrete barriers confronted me with.

3.  Mary enjoys seafood and so I thought it would be fun to stroll a bit in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and make our way to Hank's Oyster Bar.  I wanted to show her more of the neighborhood than we really could do -- I had hoped to show her the Capitol Hill Bookstore and Eastern Market, for example -- but the walk was gorgeous as the sun set behind the Capitol Dome and the Washington Monument and we got some good views of both.

Hank's Oyster Bar was alive with chatter and a lively string of young people at the bar. We were seated at the window and before long Mary and I dove into an order of a dozen oysters on the half shell from six different locations, including British Columbia, Washington State, and Maine. Julie has written enthusiastically about drinking whiskey while eating oysters, so I ordered a Brooklyn Sixpoint Res to sip on before our oysters arrived and a George Dickel Rye to drink while slurping the oysters. It was a good move. I loved how the brown sugary burn of Dickel was soothed by the sea water buttery creaminess of the oysters. Mary and I talked and talked about movies -- I particularly enjoyed her dream to one day host (or attend) a Karen Black Film Festival and it was fun talking about Karen Black movies from the 1970s and 80s. I think I saw the entirety of Come Back to Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean flash before my eyes.

We took our time eating the oysters and once they were cleared away we both dove into sweet, slightly crunchy crabcakes and Mary ordered a very tasty cauliflower side. I ordered an amber/red ale from Maine Brewing called Zoe to accompany my crabcake and Mary and I continued our conversation about movies -- we were both overwhelmed by I Am Not Your Negro and Mary helped me increase my list of movies to see.  Our check arrived with a complimentary dish of broken pieces of bittersweet chocolate, a perfect way to cap the dinner.

We took an Uber back to Union Station and I offered to give Mary a ride to her hotel on Woodley Road where her conference was being held. I thought I got some fairly erratic directions from the Google Maps voice instructing me how to drive from the Union Station Parking Garage to the Marriott Wardman Park, but I learned a lot during the circuitous trip. Ha! I successfully negotiated both Scott Circle and Dupont Circle --at night! a first! -- and, eventually, dropped Mary off and buzzed north on Connecticut Ave. to the Beltway and easily found my way home.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/22/17:At Last:Taxes,Good Times at Old Line,Simple and Exquisitely Delicious

1. I've been itching to upload our tax documents to our tax preparer and make an appointment with him. When I was younger, I put taxes off and always filed for an extension. I was kind of a wreck about this. But now, in my old age, I am eager to get the taxes done, but this year there was a holdup on a couple of our tax documents. On Tuesday, I had everything. So, today I spent a couple of hours scanning and uploading and tracking down a document at the Maryland Comptroller's website and elsewhere online. I worked deliberately, trying to do everything right on my end, and I might have succeeded. I do know one thing: I have an appointment in early April with our tax guy to get things done.

2.  After the Deke got off work and before we came home for dinner, we stopped in at Old Line for a couple of beers. We have a good thing going with James, a server there, and we hadn't seen him for a while. It turned out he'd been away for about a week, traveling to South Carolina and Florida. A while back, I gave him our DVDs of all the seasons of The Wire and he's into season three now and it's got him hooked. We also had fun talking with the Firestone Walker rep who was going from table to table serving up samples of Firestone's new take on Velvet Merlin -- Nitro Merlin Milk Stout. If we'd ordered a glass, we would have been served a free cookie with our Velvet Merlin -- a good pairing, I'm sure, but the Deke was into her 7 Locks Red Lager and I wanted to follow up my Firestone Walker DBA with Calvert's Mortal Double IPA. As we left, we chatted with the retiree who checked us out when we bought a bottle of wine and learned taht he has had a varied and fascinating life between living in far upstate New York and Maryland.

3. I had one box of pasta left, one onion, and plenty of canned tomatoes and butter and I wanted to keep dinner simple, so, before picking up the Deke, I whipped up a batch of Marcella Hazan's pasta sauce and when we arrived home I boiled pasta and grated some parmesan cheese. We had a very good dinner.  I know I've posted the Marcella Hazan recipe about 1000 times, but if you haven't looked at it, forgot to look at it, or if this is the time you'd like to give it a look, just click here. It's exquisite and so very easy.

Before I go, ever eat Campbell's tomato soup with a pat of butter? If you liked it, then you have had a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom of Marcella Hazan's pasta sauce.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/21/17: Charly's Dental Cleaning, Going to Yorktown, *I Am Not Your Negro*

1. First thing this morning, before I'd enjoyed even a sip of coffee, I drove Charly down to the vet so she could have her teeth cleaned. Later in the early afternoon, the vet's office called me to report that Charly had come through the procedure just fine and would be ready for pick up a little later in the day. I picked her up and I would have never known that she'd been under anesthesia. She came home hungry and happy to be reunited with Maggie.

2. The Deke has a three day weekend coming up and we've decided to explore the history of the American Revolution by taking a two-night trip to Yorktown, VA where we will visit the American Revolution Museum in Yorktown and the Jamestown Settlement. Since the Deke's and my birthday fall very close together, Mom gave us each some money to put together to spend on a nice dinner and we will go to a seafood restaurant in Williamsburg and enjoy some good food and wine, thanks to Mom's gift. If we can squeeze it in (ha!), we'll also go to a brewery or two and sample some fine Virginia beer.  I spent time today preparing the way for us to make this trip.

3. I picked up the Deke at school in time for us to go to the Old Greenbelt Theater to watch a late afternoon showing of I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary of the writer and intellectual James Baldwin's reflections upon the experience and his experience of being black, narrated entirely in his own written and spoken words. The only other documentary I've ever seen that took the approach of giving a dead person a voice from the grave to narrate his own story and movie was the film Tupac: Resurrection. In a way I welcomed and enjoyed, I Am Not Your Negro overwhelmed me with the sheer volume of its visual and spoken  and musical content. I wanted to stay in the theater, have the movie go back to its beginning, and watch it all again.  I wanted to listen again, among other things, to Baldwin's understanding of the nature of reality, his understanding of history, and his insights into maturity and social responsibility.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/20/17: Splish Splashin' Away, Surprise Eggplant Chili, I Love Maryland Beers

1. Last week, Mike and Ed and I headed out for a car tour of D. C. and so I missed my water aerobics class. Today, though, I was back at it, splish splashing away, smiling broadly, enjoying my body in motion. I stuck around after class and added twenty minutes to the class workout running in the pool and doing the old 9th grade football agility drill. Any sluggishness I had felt from not being in the pool for a couple of weeks melted away.

2. So, I didn't feel like going to the store and I wondered if I could make something with the black beans and onion and eggplant and other things I had on hand. A quick search of Pinterest turned up, of all things, a chili recipe combining eggplant, carrots, celery, onion, black beans, canned tomatoes and lentils. I jazzed up the recipe a little with Worcestershire sauce, a few squirts of lemon juice, cumin, and oregano and went kind of light on the chili powder and red pepper flakes. The recipe is a vegan one, but I had beef broth in a box I wanted to use, so I did. This soup turned out, to me, to be a big surprise. The Deke put her chili in a bowl with sour cream and leftover basmati rice -- and I followed her example -- and it tasted really good. We were both glad I didn't make it too hot.  Would you like to look at this recipe? Just click here.  (I think there's more a person could do to improve this recipe -- for starters, I'd add cilantro, garlic, and poblano chile pepper and I'm sure others of you would love to add other kinds of chile pepper.)

3.  Before dinner at home, the Deke and I enjoyed a couple of beers at Old Line. I tried two local IPAs that were new to me, The Alpha Effect, a delicious brew from Baltimore's always reliable Heavy Seas Brewing and there's a brewery down the road in Upper Marlboro, MD called Calvert Brewing and I found out tonight, as I sipped on a snifter of their brand new limited release Mortal Double IPA, that they brew solid beer -- the Deke and I gotta get down there for a visit.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/19/17: NYC Theater, Trying to Get Curry Right, D. C. Pictures

1.  The Deke wanted to get things organized for school and so we stayed put today. She will go to work on Monday with a clearer mind it will give her a leg up when the next report cards are due in a week. I also stayed put and read Rebecca Mead's review essay, here, about David Byrne's  and Alex Timber's musical theater treatment of John of Arc entitled, Joan of Arc: Into the Fire, playing in at The Public in New York City. My interest in NYC theater was piqued this weekend when the Deke ordered us tickets to see Sunday in the Park with George and Sally Fields in The Glass Menagerie in April during her spring break.

2. I am working hard to make curry that is not too blistering hot and not meek and mild. It's all about the balance between the amount of paste I use and the coconut milk. Today, I made a sauce with 1 Tbs plus 2 Tsp of paste combined with one can of coconut milk and one can of coconut cream and some oyster sauce. I served this sauce over tofu, onion, eggplant, and red pepper, all diced, and white basmati rice. The Deke thought the curry was very good and, at the same time, wondered if I might figure out a way to make it about five degrees milder. Yes. I think I can do that by lowering the quantity of paste by one teaspoon -- maybe two.  By the way, this was a great improvement over the last two curries I made which were too hot to eat until I diluted it with more coconut milk and chicken broth. I'm still in search of the golden mean.

3.  On the vacation Ed and Mike and I enjoyed together, I found that I wanted to enjoy the sights and enjoy my friends' company without fiddling around much with my camera. So, I took few pictures. Today, I edited those few pictures I took, and here is a sampling of them.

We arrived at the ceremony of the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier a little late and I had no sight lines to take pictures of the ceremony. I retreated away from the tomb's gallery and loved taking pictures of the amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and want to return on another sunny day and take more pictures of the light and shadows.

Amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Mike at the Lincoln Memorial

Mike and Ed at the Jefferson Memorial 

Amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Ed at the Lincoln Memorial 

Amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Mike and Ed at the Lincoln Memorial 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/18/17: The Moth at Costco, Deepening the Stroganoff, Reading with Ana

1. I went down to the Co-op, up to MOM's Organic, and over to Costco and replenished our kitchen. The Moth Radio Hour came on the radio as I pulled into a parking spot at Costco and I sat in the car and listened to the first story. It was told by Maurice Ashley, the first African-American International Grandmaster of Chess. He told the story of his early days playing chess in Brooklyn, of playing with men at Prospect Park whose game was Blitz. I was reminded of the young boy in the 1993 movie, Searching for Bobby Fischer, who comes under the influence of a speed chess player, played by Laurence Fishburne, in Washington Square Park. In both the movie and in Maurice Ashley's telling of his experiences with the Prospect Park players, known as The Black Bear School of Chess, a boy and a young man experience a reckoning. Both come to grips with how the game of chess and how they learn to play it informs the development of their inner self, their character, will, and sense of fellow feeling. It was a great twelve minutes and fifty-seven seconds of parking lot listening.

2.  The Deke and I accepted the Diazes' invitation to come over for dinner and I volunteered to be tonight's cook. I needed to fix something relatively quick, so I shopped with beef stroganoff in mind, drawing upon a recipe that calls for ground beef -- usually, I make it with cut up round steak. The recipe I used is simple, but as I read it, I thought it seemed incomplete. When it came time to brown the ground beef, I put a little butter in the cast iron pan and sauteed three finely chopped cloves of garlic. Into the two cups of beef broth the recipe called for, I added a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and a quarter cup of red wine. I love beef and black pepper, so I peppered the ground beef a bit more heavily than the recipe suggested. I am happy to report that Molly, Hiram, and the Deke genuinely loved this beef stroganoff and they heaped praise on my efforts. Thank goodness. If you'd like to look at the recipe, just click here.

Oh! Two more notes. My stroganoff included the mushrooms and, for our family, the 12 oz. package of egg noodles was not enough and, luckily, Hiram and Molly had another package at their house.

3.  Ana loves looking at books and she and I had a fun time looking at a picture book of baby animals. Ana can identify almost all the animals, either by saying what they are or making a noise that sounds like the animal. We also read a story about a red tow truck driver who rescues a stuck school bus and Ana made a lot of engine sounds.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/17/17: Maggie's Teeth Cleaning, My Teeth Cleaning, Brookeville Beer Farm and Quench

1. Maggie is insistent, very insistent starting about 6 a.m. that we feed her in the morning. Today, however, she was going to have a dental cleaning at the vet. It requires anesthesia. Therefore, no food. A battle of wills transpired between Maggie and me. I could not relent or the surgery would have to be canceled. Finally, about 6:45 she and I piled into the Sube and I took her down to the vet to drop her off. Being in the car and arriving at the vet took her mind off her morning chow and all went very well with the check in and, about eight hours later, I picked her up. She'd been a trooper. Once home, she got to eat a reduced helping of kibbles and was recovering well from her surgery. No grogginess. No nausea. A happy reunion with Charly. Maggie never fails to impress me with her fortitude.

She's a good dog.

2.  I, too, visited the dentist today for a cleaning and a check-up. I didn't have to be sedated. I just relaxed and a hygienist who was new to me cleaned and polished my teeth and we talked a bit about how I could take even better care of my teeth. I once had a hygienist who hectored me about dental care, but this hygienist didn't. She just talked with me, answered my questions, and gave me ten dollar off coupon for an electric toothbrush should I decide to go that route. I think the coupon could be thought of as incentive.

3. I picked up the Deke from her job and we drove about a half an hour to Brookeville Beer Farm, here, about a half an hour away. People we met recently and joined for beers a couple of weeks ago at Franklins were meeting at Brookeville and one of these people, Jim, was playing in the Irish band providing live music. The tasting room at Brookeville Beer Farm was packed solid. It was a very cool place, but it was so packed we never found Jo, but we did find Sara with her mother, Joan, for a short conversation. We enjoyed the time we spent listening to Jim's band, but without a place to sit and given how noisy the place was -- the good kind of noisy, by the way -- we decided we'd return to Brookeville Beer Farm another time and hoped we'd hear Jim's band again under different circumstances. We were very happy to have made the trip out to the farm.

One of our favorite spots, Quench, was on the way back to Greenbelt and we stopped in. It, too, was very busy, but we snagged a couple of seats at the bar and enjoyed some of Union's divine Double Duckpin Imperial IPA with a little Jameson's Irish Whiskey and we split a very tasty shepherd's pie.