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Category Archives: Random Ramblings

Wheels Up in Less than a Week!

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Dorm Microwave and FridgeOne week from today, I’ll be sitting in sunny Orlando at our first day of JetBlue training. I’m in the process of getting organized and not the least bit worried about packing, which is why I have time for this blog. Yes, this is abnormal for most females, but I packed in a carry-on for three months when I went to Europe for Culinary Hopscotch. I figure this should be a drop in the bucket.*

The thing that has me the most perturbed isn’t what I’ll wear on the first day of school or if I’m going to forget all of the airport codes when I get there. It’s how I’m going to eat for three weeks. You didn’t think I’d let this get too far from Culinary Hopscotch’s original roots, did you?

Here’s the deal. Breakfast is included at the hotel, but we’re on our own for lunch and dinner. Seems fine, but I refuse to subject myself to Tony Romas and other airport-adjacent chain restaurants for 21 days. My waistline and palette can’t handle it. And when you factor in that our rooms only have a microwave and a fridge, I get a familiar, September 1998 feeling, like when I flung open the door to my UCSB dorm for the first time.

Drastic times call for drastic measures, so I’ve conjured up a manual, we’ll call it, to help me think of things I can easily prepare with these rudimentary appliances. Hop into the suitcase, PETA’s Vegan College Cookbook…you’re coming to Orlando with me! Turns out that finding a microwave-friendly cookbook is, ironically, kind of a PITA.

While I won’t “Let PETA turn (my) room into the campus destination for amazing vegan food” (it seriously says that), I’m hoping that the “on a budget” and the “most complicated kitchenware you’ll ever need is a microwave” advertisements pan out. Screw the parts about stocking my mini fridge with things that never had a pulse and not putting metal in the microwave; I’m appliance-challenged, not an idiot. Or maybe I am. I spent $10.50 of my hard-earned American money on a book with a recipe called “Brainy Bac’n Cheese Toast.” Top one slice of bread with tomatoes, fakin’ bits, and cheese. Microwave and top with the remaining slice of bread.

Here’s hoping I don’t toss PETA in the trash on my way to a heaping plate of Tony Romas’ ribs. Or worse, use the book as a placemat.

*I’m also checking bags for the first time in about five years thanks to a business-casual dress code

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Such Great Heights

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Kyle McNichols, JetBlue Inflight CrewmemberLook inside that tiny little airplane window. If you squint, you’ll see me sashaying up and down the aisles, delivering Terra Blue Chips, PopCorners, and hopefully drinks with ice that is neither too cold nor too plentiful. Seriously, people complain about that. With reclining leather chairs and DirecTV, it will be like my own little living room in the sky, and I’ll be the hostess. Well, air hostess, like they call them in the UK.

Still not following? What I’m trying to tell you is that I’ve given up my sea-level office and swapped it for one at 35,000 feet. I’ve been hired as a JetBlue Inflight Crewmember!

In a few weeks, I’m taking off for training in Orlando, and from there, I’ll be criss-crossing the country and Caribbean, delivering the JetBlue experience to passengers just like yourselves. It’s been a lengthy hiring process, but I did it, and I am really excited!

For the chance to see me in action, you better grab yourself a seat on JetBlue…see you in the skies!

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

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Versatile Blogger Logo for Culinary HopscotchDid you hear the news? Culinary Hopscotch was given The Versatile Blogger award by Ukate! Her write-up about my blog was really too kind, and I’m ecstatic to formally accept the award. It’s kind of like a chain letter where I’ll get the chance to pay the award forward to another group of blogs, so if you’d like to nominate your own or a favorite blog you read, please leave a comment on this post with a link. I’ll be giving out my awards in November.

Per her instructions, in order to accept the award, I’m to dish seven random factoids about myself. Things that you wouldn’t otherwise read on the blog. This should be fun! So sit back and enjoy a little atypical slice of Culinary Hopscotch this week.

Factoids

1. I do not eat white condiments. No mayonnaise, ranch dressing, sour cream, cream cheese, or anything else that’s white and falls within the condiment family. Go ahead, toss one my way…it’s everyone’s favorite pastime, and chances are, I won’t eat it.

2. My name is Kyle because my father insisted I was going to be a boy. My mother fought with him until she didn’t feel like it anymore, and they decided I would be Kyle either way. Ironically, I have younger twin brothers.

3. I hate black toilet seats and will do whatever I can to avoid them at all costs. Rumor has it that I dislodged one from a toilet at a pub near Cambridge when I studied abroad. I can neither confirm nor deny this rumor.

4. I learned French in high school, and still have a rather unusual command of the language. I’ve also spent time post-college studying German. I love languages and probably should have majored in one or the other.

5. I was on ABC’s The Bachelor when it was filmed in Paris during 2005. Travis Storke was the suitor, and now, he is one of the characters on the talk show The Doctors. I barely talked to him during the taping, but remain friends with a bunch of the girls from the show. It’s like a post-college sorority!

6. I play Fantasy Football and my boyfriend does not. He laments Sundays because I sit around with beer and yell at the TV…all…day…long.

7. Said boyfriend and I have three pets: a Newfoundland named Henri, and two cats named Tom and Brady. My boyfriend’s name is Brady and his father’s name is Tom, which as you can imagine, leads to some hysterical looks from people when they meet the cats for the first time.

 

Thank you again to UKate for the kind nod for Culinary Hopscotch. I really appreciate it, and of course, I will get her the recipes from my Indian cooking class in London.

 

 

Portland State University Farmer’s Market

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Farmer's market, Portland State University PSU, heirloom tomatoOne of the many things we’re blessed with in Portland is a bounty of farmer’s markets. There are so many, in fact, that there’s a website dedicated to the different ones held around the city. We had some unusually hot weather for this late in the season this past week, so I knew if I was going to do anything on Saturday (the high was 96), I needed to get it done early. That’s why I decided to go and check-out the Portland State University’s farmer’s market.

As many of you know, I moonlight as a college counselor, so this visit would be Farm fresh eggs, Portland State University PSU farmer's marketbeneficial two-fold. I’ve often had my kids look-up PSU as a possible college option, however cautioning them that it’s a city campus so they might not have the same college  sensation that they would elsewhere. That advice is only sort of true. The college is actually very campusy, and the farmer’s market is held there each Saturday from March through December in the south park blocks.

I hopped on the streetcar and took it directly to the campus. It was so easy and I’m now kicking myself for not having done this sooner. After all, I only have a few months before this market will go into hibernation for awhile. When that happens, where am I going to get the farm fresh eggs I bought? Or the habanero cherry jelly? Or the gorgeous cherry habanero pepper jelly, Portland State University PSU, farmer's marketyellow heirloom tomato? Not to mention all the sampling I got to do. That was one of my favorite parts. I ate herbs de provence havarti, a variety of charcuterie, red pear, and the freshest goat cheese I’ve ever tasted. It reminded me of my 4-H days when we’d make goat’s milk ice cream in the pens at the fairgrounds.

What are your favorite farmer’s market finds? Brady and I are headed back next weekend so I can show him this not-so-hidden gem in our new home town. With wine tasting, food tasting, and the food carts there to eat from (I finally got to taste Pine State Biscuits), I have a feeling this will become a fall staple rain or shine.

Who is @Secretkebab?

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@Secretkebab on TwitterBrady and I are obsessed with @Secretkebab on Twitter. While we’ve yet to use his services, we get a kick out of reading his ridiculous posts marketing Turkish delights that he delivers in NW Portland. Last weekend, we had dinner with friends, and passed around the phone at the table so each person could perform their own version of what his accent must sound like. Even the waiter was dying laughing. Brady thinks this person must be a witty, Jewish kid, because there’s no way someone could be that unintentionally funny. I don’t doubt that the person manning @Secretkebab is the real deal, but I think it’s time to settle the score and find out for sure.

With reviews on Yelp like this:

“So, there we were, leaning against the chainlink fence of the U-Haul rental place in the dark at 30th & Killingsworth. I was absentmindedly fumbling with the wad of cash in my pocket and trying to anticipate what the delivery guy would look like. I hand him $15. He pockets it and shoves a non-descript brown paper bag at me before disappearing into the night. Maitre D. and I walk back to the car feeling like we have a bagful of contraband. We immediately broke into them and were treated to homemade pita bread wrapped around juicy, wood-smoked, medium-rare lamb. Perfectly spiced and incredible.”

it’s hard to imagine the experience would be anything short of magical. His references: magical too. Hashish, boom boom, and ass picnics (whatever those are) have a way of creeping into each Tweet, their inferences neither known nor concerning. If you need a chuckle, follow along.

A bout of 3am sleeplessness last week had me trying to contain my laughter in bed while reading the following Tweet:

“@secretkebab: You call it hookah?! Turkis it is nargile!! I am fill with rose tobacoo hashish and banana skin!! And then I am on the wife!! BOOM BOOM!!”.

So when Brady asked me via BBM earlier, “What am I going to eat while you’re gone?!” (I’m was on a flight to Dallas while I wrote this), I simply replied, “Contact the Turk.” Here’s another hilarious one for posterity:

“@secretkebab: Ask me the wish for the lamb to come kisses nips nips tickel on the face and a man will come!! With kebab for you!! Hello?! HELLO DEER!!”

Culinary Blitzkrieg

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I have been on a cooking rampage this week. I don’t know what it is, but if I’m away from my kitchen for too long, I get separation anxiety. I find myself with overwhelming ADD concerning all the things I want to make, mainly because there are so many ideas swirling around in my head. I’ve already committed to hosting an Indian dinner party next week for friends, but I’m feeling anxious that I haven’t put together our meal plan for the rest of the week. I do know that our floor will be perfumed with curry for days after next Thursday evening, so there’s an element of solitude in that. Sorry for currying, floor-mates. 


So far this week (and it’s not over), I have made: cajun pork burgers, chile lime avocados, chicken divan, herbed mash, Alsatian pizzas with caramelized onions and bacon, celery/apple/fennel slaw, ice cream sundaes with ganache and pretzel nougatine, a garlic cheese braid, and right now, I’m curing salmon that will sit atop a fried wonton with avocado mash to hold it all together. Told you: it’s an all-out kitchen assault, and I can’t be stopped.


I’m blaming Portland. This city is chalk full of markets (traditional and farmers), restaurants with inventive menus, and creative foodies. This walkabout lifestyle, where no ingredient requires any driving, is inspiring me to get off my ass and use every utensil in my kitchen. Henri probably thinks I’m crazy, but he loves going along as my sous chef on our ingredient-hunting missions. And because I’m a sucker for his big, droopy eyes, he usually gets a treat or a sampling from the menu. In fact, I think he’s had a home-cooked dinner two or three times this week. Lucky dog…


Happy Friday! Enjoy a sampling of photos from this week’s culinary blitzkrieg: 

http://files.photosnack.net/app/swf/EmbedCanvas.swf?v=3&hash_id=eeed90575fd32fd96298c65ba1297768&t=1311976489To view this photo slideshow you need to have Flash Player 9 or newer installed and JavaScript enabled. PhotoSnack, the <a href=”http://www.photosnack.com/” title=”PhotoSnack – Flash photo slideshow maker”>free slideshow</a> creator allows you to create stunning photo slideshows in minutes!

What’s the Difference Between Tapas and Pintxos?

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Moving on from Bordeaux to Toulouse in the evening meant I got to enjoy a late meal of tapas and sangria with my friend. We shared Iberian ham, Manchego cheese, these tiny, deep fried fish that were whole and still had eyes, slices of chorizo, and of course, a pitcher of sangria. The restaurant was down a very quiet street, but completely filled with locals…the crazy kind. In fact, when the music began to pump through the place around 11:30 or so, some of the younger people at the table behind us de-robed briefly to dance on the tables. See?

Toulouse was a fantastic little town, and an interesting departure from both Paris and Bordeaux. Yes, I was still technically in France, but their way of life is more akin to Spain. Life gets started later in the evening, and they share a lot in common with their neighbor to the south. The proximity might have something to do with it. We woke up on Saturday morning, jumped in the car, and drove from Toulouse to Barcelona in just under three hours. That’s where I’d learn the difference between tapas and pintxos.

Both styles of food share a convivial spirit, whereby they’re eaten in a social setting. The difference, I’d find out, is that whereas tapas are smaller portions of food that are meant to be shared, pintxos are literally finger foods from the Basque region of Spain. For pintxos, you stand at a tavern bar with a small glass of wine and grab what you’d like from the displays. “Pintxos” literally means “spike,” and each of the pieces of bread with toppings are stuck with a toothpick. It helps to hold the food together, and then the bartender counts them on your plate and charges you accordingly.

In the tavern where we ate, there were lots of pintxos options, and most had fish. Common toppings include hake, cod, anchovy, but I preferred a pintxos with smoked salmon and a dollop of sauerkraut, or something like it, on top. Other options were olives, stuffed peppers, croquettes, and tortilla de patatas. Don’t be fooled by the name though… “tortilla” in Barcelona is nothing like our tortillas at home. It’s actually an omelet. Pintxos are great if you’re hungry for something small (like we were before the FC Barcelona game last night), and also an interesting way for groups of friends or family to crawl around the town from one place to the next.

Today was a rather busy day, and we finished it off with churros con chocolata at home. Wowsers. After the major injection of sugar, we’re trying desperately to stay awake for the Superbowl tonight. It starts at midnight, and we’re going to a place called Obama Bar to watch it. How ironic is that?

Barcelona was really fabulous, and in the short time I was here, I did a lot. I attended the soccer game last night against Getafe, we hiked up to Park Güell today for a picnic of Iberian ham sandwiches and had views of the entire city, and then we rented bikes and cruised along the boardwalk and all around the city center. Tomorrow morning, we’ll make a quick stop at Boqueria Market, and then it’s off to the airport in Girona. Barcelona…you have been great to me, and I will undoubtedly be back for paella, soccer, mojitos, tequila shots with orange slices and “canarella” (inside joke), and of course, more of those fantastic pintxos and sangria.

Next Stop: Granada