Sunday, December 28, 2008

Breakfast on a Snowy Sunday...

That was last week.

This Sunday, it feels like monsoon season here in Providence. It's nearly 60 degrees and windy, sort of rainy, cloudy (now dark!).

I have a 'thing' for mugs. I am completely in love with them and have collected quite a few favorites over the years! That said, I still drink out of my Taylor and Ng 'Le Lapin' rabbit orgy mug most mornings.
My grandmother gave me four of them years ago. I don't know if she knew what those bunnies were doing! (Who am I kidding? Of course she knew. The woman lived a jam-packed 81 years on this planet. She knew a lot more than she ever let on!)

This Gary Larson 'Midvale School for the Gifted' mug is a close second in the frequency-of-use department. Or perhaps it's a tie between this one and 'The Scream'. Either way, this is one of my favorites.

Maybe I will photograph my collection soon. Every now and then I will pull an oldie out from the recesses of my cupboard and I'm like a kid on Christmas, or a pig in shit!

The man has been working every day, and we've both been battling sinus issues, so things have been rather monotonous and subdued around here. Plus, the holiday season always throws me into this holding pattern where I have to think twice to even know what day it is.
I don't deal well with either monotony or subdued - or the holidays, it would appear!

Today was easy - too much football is on for it to be any other day but Sunday...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Big Fat Pillow for my Great Big Bed!

Great Big Bed
Originally uploaded by whatstepheats
We got a ginormous Bob-o-pedic, and it's not bad! I suppse it's part of our collective holiday presents to ourselves - the other being a trip to Cozumel in February.

I can't tell which thrills me more! I've always been an instant gratification kind of gal, but this bed we bought from "Lucky" is (effectively) forever. I guess it's a win-win situation. Do those ever happen in my life anymore? Maybe you should reach out and pinch me...

The man sleeps better, and therefore so do I. Once his sinuses clear and he gets a day off, it will be a veritable nirvana around here.

(Oh, yeah, then there's the issue of the motherfucking smoke in my motherfucking condo; the issue of the holes in the crotches of all my favorite jeans; that of my constant puffiness of my ageing face; my sagging everything; the depressed economy and my depressed psyche, the heaviness of the holidays...)

"You just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again!"

That's my focus.

Merry Merry, Holly Jolly...

Whatever you are celebrating out there, I hope you are doing a fine and complete job at making merry.

Here at Chez Steph, the Dinnerman is supine on the couch with a fantastic sinusitis that's manifested itself in both of us this past week. Combined with his work schedule, it's thrown a wrench in any Christmas plans. I suppose working in a hospital and living in a building with "air quality issues" can do that to even the strongest among us.
I have taken the premature pre-emptive antibiotic route. He prefers to suffer loudly and drink bourbon as a cure.

We are effectively limiting ourselves to televised figure skating, RedBox DVD's, and Chinese delivery, which ain't so bad if you ask me. Here's the beautiful thing - you don't have to ask, because I am effusively forthcoming with any and all info pertaining to my life and times. Maybe too much so, but in case you couldn't tell or in case you are new here, I do not subscribe to the notion of TMI.

I did cook dinner last night for Kenny and the Dinnerman - linguini with shrimp in a red sauce, garlicky asparagus, and naked peppers. I am very bored with my own cooking of late, but the men seemed to enjoy it, though I suspect the meal took a backseat to the gossip. I swear, they are worse than women when they get together! I suspect a DNA analysis would reveal an extra X or two...

May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be, well, whatever.

Tidings. Later.

Friday, December 19, 2008

My First Picanha - Why We Love Casa Brasil

As all three of my regular readers may know, the Dinnerman and I frequent a fantastic rodizio restaurant called Casa Brasil, just over the bridge in East Providence.

Owned by Joe and Rose Barros, the family-run Casa Brasil has been open since 2002, and a regular haunt of ours since 2004. They feature a plentiful hot and cold buffet (for sale by the pound to go if you want) and if you desire, the full-blown 'churrascaria' thing - that Brazilian display of pageantry where meats are carved onto your plate at your table until you flip your 2-sided spool from green to red.

The usual procession includes bacon-wrapped chicken, turkey, and sirloin; chicken wings; smoky kielbasa; pork loin; pork ribs; beef short ribs; big pieces of sirloin; something called 'flap meat'; garlic-rubbed tri-tip; and if you get lucky, rarities such as chicken hearts and home-made Brazilian sausage. But the star of the show, at least in the Dinnerman's mouth, are the big hunks of the Brazilian cut known as 'Picanha', which is not a common cut of beef in this country.

According to Wikipedia, Picanha is also known as 'rump cover' steak, and is considered quite a delicacy in South American countries, especially Brasil.

We go through phases with Casa Brasil - we can go for months without a single visit, but then we'll venture out for an early dinner one Sunday and we are hooked. Like true addicts, we then return each week. We dream about the meats, we can't take our minds off of them!

And the buffet! It offers the perfect sides to all that animal protein: the delicious and authentic feijoada; the tutu beans; the rice; the Brazilian salad of tomato, green pepper, and onion over which we have been instructed to sprinkle farofa (toasted manioc flour with crumbled bacon) - these are the perfect accompaniments to this hedonistic feast.

Joe is the front man - the jovial native of Rio de Janeiro who happily greets and informs his hungry customers. He has been known to bring us a dish of this or that, telling us how he made it, where he got the ingredients, how it should be eaten. Rose, his lovely and beautiful wife, is just as present and integral but not as overtly so. She creates many of the dishes on the buffet, and keeps everything running so smoothly. Their daughter Amy waits tables and is sweet as can be. And interestingly, their son Jason works at the same hospital as the Dinnerman, who sees him often. This is a solid family who pour themselves, heart and soul, into all they do. They are in the perfect location too, as East Providence has such a large population of Portuguese. At Casa Brasil, you hear more Portuguese than English.

Back to my point - not that I ever have a single one!

This past Sunday, per our prior request, Joe brought out 3 beautiful slabs of Picanha for us to take home and cook - complete with instructions and baggies full of just the right amount of salt and flour to execute the operation to perfection.

It could not have been more simple - one hour before roasting, I rubbed the gorgeous meat with salt from baggie number 1. Then, right before shoving into a 350 oven, I tossed the meat in flour. So simple - 45 minutes later, we had dinner.

Granted, my beans and rice don't compare to Rose's feijoada, and I don't think I've ever seen brussel sprouts at Casa Brasil. But the man and I were so damn happy with that Picanha!

Thanks, Joe! And happy birthday to Rose (yesterday, December 18th, was her 50th, but she looks younger than my 35 years). I hope Joe was able to fulfill his desire of getting her drunk. He makes the best Caipirinhas, so I don't know how he could have failed...

Go to Casa Brasil. If you appreciate meat and family, you'll love it. And seriously, the Caipirinhas can't be beat. They have the perfect balance of sour to sweet. I abhor drinks that play to the idea that the American palate sways toward the overly sweet. These are not that way. They are great.

We'll see you there on Sunday.

Casa Brasil
545 North Broadway
East Providence, RI 02914
(401) 434-8500

My Casa Brasil pics on Flickr:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jumping on the Bed

Jumping on the Bed
Originally uploaded by whatstepheats
I was going to wear this dress for last week's party, but it was too cold, and my boobs were too big.

No, I'm not pregnant.
Yes, I am crazy.

Cod with Pesto and Mustard Panko Crust

I made this for dinner the other night. I went to Whole Foods early in the morning in the driving rain - so early that not all the fish was out yet. The cod looked fantastic, though, so it was a no-brainer.

I've become such an afficionado of this fish-cooking process. At Whole Foods, there is a display of flavored panko crumbs and spice rubs at the fish counter. One day, the fish guy suggested that I rub pesto on the fish and then top it with some crumbs. He said the mustard flavored crumbs went well with cod. The first time, I didn't listen and bought the pistachio crumbs - I'm such a rebel. Without a cause. Scratch that. I have a cause. More than one, actually. But I digress...

The pistachio/pesto combo was fabulous. This time, I tried the mustard, which was good too. But I must say I prefer the pistachio.

Try this! The potential combinations of fish and panko crumbs are multitudinous, and it's such an easy thing to do!

(Apologies, folks, for the disjointed nature of this post and the angry nature of last night's. Tonight there are 2 rather intoxicated people in the room who will not stop talking to me, and last night I was the drunk person experiencing an unfair, unpleasant, over-a-year-long-now scourge and it was the 'biggest' full moon. I guess that means it was the closest full moon, as I can't imagine that the size of our lovely satellite has changed...)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bienvenidos a Motherfucking Rhode Island...

It is unbelievable how this can go on - a cigar bar in a residential building? Where I smell this acrid fucking stench 24/7 in my residence? Where I breathe in toxic fumes as I sleep at night?

Welcome to fucking Rhode Island. Breathe at your own risk. Oh, and go fuck yourself too. That is, unless you know somebody...

I hate it here.

To you City Officials, and the embarrassingly impotent, defiant, and self-righteous RI State Department of Health - all you assholes have blood on your hands. May you never get a good night's sleep - ever again.

I will never, ever let this go.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Angry Pork Chops

I've been pretty uninspired of late. This is no doubt in part related to the cold, the rain, and the darkness that falls earlier each night.
I'm sure it's also because of the situation in my condo building involving a certain business that fills our halls (and homes, in our case) with acrid cigar smoke each night. But I digress...

The pork chop moniker comes from the party we had last Saturday night. We'd picked up the catering, laid out the booze, and everything was all set to go. That is, until Kenny came by and said that we needed to put out some nuts or some chips or something. This, of course, was something I had suggested as well, but, you know how it goes.
So, I furiously popped pan after pan of popcorn, and instead of just a sprinkle of kosher salt, doused it with curry powder and cayenne pepper! Angry popcorn was born. A mistake? Maybe. Will I do it again? Probably not. Did it work on the popcorn? Not really.

But it worked just fine on pork!

Hope your week has been less angry than mine.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Grow a Chick

Grow a Chick
Originally uploaded by whatstepheats
Actually, I think I'm growing a rubber ducky. It could take a few weeks, and my goal is for it to be like that pear brandy where the jar is placed over the bud and the pear grows into it. You know what I mean, right? Good.

We had a big party last night, sort of a combination Holiday Bash/ Dinnerman's Birthday Celebration. I was very happy with the number of people who participated in our optional 'Re-Gift Yankee Swap'! Somehow I ended up with this chick (or rubber ducky, or whatever the heck it is...) growing in a Munroe Dairy jar, suspended by a roach clip.

Like I said, it was a big party...

Today is the birthday boy's actual birthday. It's also Pearl Harbor Day. I'm going to remember it as 'A Day Lost to the Somewhat Painful Aftereffects of Drinking Too Much of Everything' as well.

It's time for a hair of the dog that bit me.

Tozai Sake

I've become quite enamored with Tozai sake of late. The first one I tried was the super-unfiltered and cloudy 'Snow Maiden' in the pink bottle. We couldn't find that one at Yankee Spirits this past Friday when we went to stock up on all manner of intoxicants for our big bash. They did have this one, 'Voices in the Mist', which is less cloudy though still unfiltered. I think I actually prefer this one, though the man disagrees. His first love will always be the 'Snow Maiden'.

It all started back in September when the man was in Chicago. His meeting ended early, and everyone but him was able to switch to an earlier flight. One of his favorite colleagues got the last seat on the only earlier flight with availability! My man was not happy - that is until his hotel, the Hyatt, gave him a free ticket to the first ever 'Gourmet Chicago' event that was being held that afternoon in Millenium Park.
That ticket was worth $150, and my lover's opinion of Hyatt Hotels skyrocketed as quickly as his frown turned into a smile. He got quite soused as he was able to taste all kinds of delicious food and drink. I know this because I had the privilege of hearing about it live as he drunk-dialed me (well, really he dialed Kenny as that was the day my phone died from texting in the rain, but I digress...) with the play-by-play.
He went on and on about how much I would really love the event and how it was right up my alley! I love when he does that. It's happened many a time from a variety of locations around the planet: Nice, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Tokyo...someday I'll get to those places! :)

Anyway, back to the sake. After hanging up the phone he met up with his longtime Japanese friend who just happened to be in Chicago as well, and they started in on the sake booth. Because his friend was Japanese he was able to communicate very well with the Japanese man who was running the Tozai booth, and, well, let's just say that Gourmet Chicago may have ended at 5pm that day, but their private party was just beginning...

He was still drunk when he landed in Providence, and ever since, we've been drinking more sake.

It snowed for the first time this season today in Providence, on the Dinnerman's birthday. Happy Birthday, baby.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Roasted Chicken with Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts

This is a very simple meal, of which I make a version most weeks.
Sometimes I use a whole chicken, but this time I just did breasts.

I rub kosher salt into the chicken several hours before cooking and let it sit in the fridge as I find this makes the meat tender and the skin crisper.

I've begun to roast brussel sprouts, garlic, and cubed potatoes ahead of time so I can haul my butt to the gym and not have to rush to get everything done when I get home. I just douse them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and throw them in a 375 degree oven until they start to brown. The brussel sprouts tend to brown more quickly than the potatoes so I use separate pans - unlike when I roast potatoes with carrots, for example.

The chicken gets a quick pass under the broiler until the skin starts to brown, and then I turn the oven to 375 for about 20 minutes or until done.

Simple! I usually serve this meal with a salad including bitter greens, red onion, and sheep's milk feta.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Originally uploaded by whatstepheats

Though the sun did shine today and temperatures were in the fifties, I am sorely missing these sweet little nuggets of juicy perfection.
I could live in a more southern clime, for sure. The Yankee impatience in me would fade, fade away...

Perfection is the Enemy of the Good

Um, Yeah.
Originally uploaded by whatstepheats
And here's a rather extreme example. As far as I know, this sign became a humorous office oddity which explains why it wasn't corrected. I guess this would be an example of 'perfection being the enemy of the good' gone bad.

I believe Voltaire's quote literally translated is, "The better is the enemy of the good".
It's something I think about often, having a thread of perfection sewn into the fabric of my being. Before I became so enlightened, I allowed my desire for perfection to hold me back. More than a few times in my years on this planet I've managed to convince myself that it's pointless to even try my hand at something because surely the outcome wouldn't be perfect. I've sat on my ass wishing for a magical guru to come take me under his wing and show me all the secrets of my unlocked talents. Tap that shit. It's a potential stranglehold on one's life.

While I am far from relieved of this affliction, at least I am aware of it. I can see it festering and most times get past that tendency to give up and burrow my head like an ostrich. A little OCD is in the mix as well, adding to my tendency to get stuck. But with age (!) came some wisdom and now the voices in my head urge me forward with a little more forcefulness and success. I remind myself that I am smart, capable, and strong and that it can be rewarding and meaningful to just try.

Of course, though my demons and angels remain in balance on a good day, not all days are good!

I suppose it doesn't help that the Anglicized pronunciation of my last name rhymes with 'inertia'.

Maybe perfection is in the imperfections anyway.