Sunday, February 27, 2011

Duckfat - Restaurant Review

Dave, Tyler and I went into Portland last night to see a concert, and since medical students don't eat unless they are forced to, we went to dinner. Tyler suggested Duckfat, and given our new-found love of duck anything, we went there.

What Duckfat is known primarily for, apparently, is, you guessed it, duck fat. Their signature dish is a cone of "classic Belgian fries made with local Maine potatoes fried in duck fat". We each got some of those, and they are fantastic. Best fries I have ever eaten. They also come with many different kinds of dipping sauce, including truffle ketchup (amazing), Thai Chili Mayo (good and spicy) and sweet and spicy mustard (would be better on a sandwich, but still good). Dave and I also split a cup of the soup of the day, which was sweet potato with candied ginger - sweet and smooth with just a hint of a bite.

For entree, we each got a panini, and as usual, split them. Dave got the duck confit panini (naturally), with shreaded duck, kimchi and sweet chili sauce. He complained about the kimchi not being authentic, but this was, in my opinion, a very good thing. Real kimchi is a rather deadening taste, and if you want to actually enjoy what you are eating, putting red pepper on it isn't the best idea. All in all, a tasty sandwich. I liked mine better though - roast turkey with brie and cranberry fennel relish. As I'm sure you can tell from all of the recipes here, if it has brie or cranberries in it, I love it. As this sandwich had both, it was pretty much perfect.

For dessert I got beignets with chocolate sauce - the beignets had a slight lemon flavor that added a nice zest to the fried dough - and Dave had churros - the chocolate sauce for those had some red pepper in it and I was tempted to drink what was left over. Dave even offered me his straw. I declined. I am kind of regretting it.

All in all, a great dinner, and pretty cheap - under $50 for 2 each of drinks, appetizers, entrees and desserts. We will definitely got here again.

And finally, since the concert was our reason for going to Portland in the first place, we saw Flogging Molly! We missed the first opening act, The Drowning Men but did have the privilege of seeing the second, the Moneybrothers. We spent most of their set trying to determine where the lead singer is from. His accent ranged from Albanian to Tommy Wiseau - turns out he is actually from Sweden. The music was... interesting. Either the sound system was not checked properly for them, or they normally sound like a car accident in Hell.

Flogging Molly, however, was awesome. I'd never seen them before, although I'd heard many concert stories from a good friend of mine (including one where he was dropped on his head while crowd surfing). They played for a surprisingly long time (just over 2 hours), and included a number of songs from their upcoming album, Speed of Darkness. They also played a lot of old favorites, and those I can remember are linked below (so you can pretend you were there too).

Black Friday Rule, Wanderlust, Devil's Dance Floor, Drunken Lullabies, What's Left of the Flag, The Worst Day Since Yesterday, Float, If I Ever Leave This World Alive, Tobacco Island, Requiem for a Dying Song,

To my great delight, they finished with my favorite song, Seven Deadly Sins!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On Moving to PA

Things I will miss about Maine
Cheap housing
Ri Ra
Cheap movie tickets
amazing seafood
UNECOM friends

Things I will not miss about Maine
Long commute to work/school/everywhere
Snow/ice/generally shit-tastic weather
racist, bigoted white people

Things I am looking forward to in Pennsylvania
Red Robin
Ethnic food
less ice
Being a lot closer to friends/family
Being close to big cities
more culture
Free housing (if we live with family)
more company at home (if we live with family)

Things that I am not looking forward to in Pennsylvania
A possible loss of independence (if we live with family)

Allentown is:
1.5 hours from Harrisburg, PA (Dave's grandmother)
1.5 hours to Philadelphia, PA
2.5 hours from NYC (lots of friends)
3 hours from State College, PA (my grandparents)
3.5 hours from Syracuse, NY (my family)
3.5 hours from Washington DC
6 hours to Chaffeys Lock, ON (cottage)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Las Vegas!

I arrived in Las Vegas at 8:30 am and the first thing I saw was this billboard for the Thunder From Down Under. Not only was I suddenly absolutely certain that I was in Las Vegas, I had a very strong desire to see the show. That's what 3 hours of sleep will do to you, hu?

Travis was a doll and picked me up at the airport and took me home, where I slept for about 6 hours. Chris came home from work and we went out to get sushi for dinner. We went to Yama Sushi, which regardless of Travis' feelings, was pretty awesome. All of the special rolls had dirty names - Whose Your Daddy?, The Man Whore, Strip Tease, One Minute Man, Happy Ending. Just ordering the food was fun, as the waitress repeats everything back to you and laughs just as much. My favorite was the Wet Dream - a baked California roll topped with cream cheese and shrimp. Fantastic.

I was still tired when we got home so we decided to have a quiet night in. Apparently the current favorite movie in their household is Easy A, so we watched that and Travis made amazing cookies - Oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies, to be precise. Delicious.

Some things needed to be worked on in their kitchen, so at noon, the handyman arrived. Bailey (and his dog, a sweetheart of a yellow lab) amused Travis and I for hours. Or rather, making sexually inappropriate jokes about Bailey to each other amused us for hours.

For dinner we had sushi again, this time at Sushi Mon. We, also again, got the all you can eat sushi, which is probably the greatest thing ever invented. For $25 you can eat as much as possible in 60 minutes, which for a normal person is 4-5 rolls. As each one is anywhere from $8-12, its a steal. While the names on this menu weren't as fun, the food was, as Travis swore all of the night before, much better, and their choice of baked rolls was much wider - baked rolls are my new favorite thing. They also had amazing mochi ice cream for dessert. I really need more Japanese food in my life.

After dinner Chris and Travis took me on a tour of Vegas.

As you can see, there are pirates, various national landmarks, and even volcanoes in Las Vegas.

Bailey was back, this time with the parts necessary to whatever he was fixing. The filthy jokes continued and only increased with Chris' return from work. It was eventually decided that Bailey wanted all of us, and that we should have an orgy while Chris played with the dog. This (probably*) didn't happen.

The Handyman was there so long, in fact, that we decided to have a quiet night in. Travis spent a few hours teaching me how to play blackjack; it is a lot of fun, but I am too poor to actually gamble. The idea of making money is really nice, the idea of losing money really sucks. So I'll just stick with the money I have.

This relatively event-less day did lead to one fantastic discovery: the Machine of Death. It is a collection of short stories that all began with one webcomic, and if you haven't read it yet, you really should. As the velociraptor says, it sounds pretty morbid, but it is really interesting. Each story is written by a different author, and so each gives a slightly different take on the social repercussions of everyone knowing how they will die. I only got about 90 pages into it (out of nearly 500), so I should probably just bite the bullet and buy it.

Thursday night Travis informed me that we would be up early Friday morning, so I had to be ready to actually do things before noon. Damn.

The first thing we did was to buy tickets to, tra la la! The Thunder from Down Under. This was to be my first adult entertainment show, and I must admit to a certain amount of giddy-ness. We had breakfast at Coco's Bakery. Really nice place for a chain diner, and I got to try the miracle that is Red Velvet Pancakes. Be still, my beating heart.

Travis then kidnapped me. He said our destination was a surprise, and surprise it was. I had no idea the Hoover Dam is 20 miles from Vegas.

But so it is. Here is my one nerdy fact about the Hoover Dam:
If the amount of concrete in the dam was used to build a two-lane highway, it would go from New York City to San Francisco. That's a lot of road.

Another fact, this one less fun and more the kind of thing I feel I should know, and don't: the Hoover Dam is on the boarder between Nevada and Arizona. This means halfway across, the time zone changes. It also means that we crossed into Arizona to park, and it is free there and about $10 in Nevada.

We went home after that and watched about 90 Family Guy episodes waiting for Chris to come back with Brad in tow. Apparently Las Vegas traffic sucks.

Dinner was at a faux British restaurant. The food was good, service was not. I won't say what place it was, so as not to be libelous, but suffice it to say, I wouldn't go again. Travis, Chris, Me, Brad

Then, finally, we went to see the show. The Thunder from Down Under. Even the name makes you chuckle, doesn't it? I'm not sure what I was expecting from the show - a little titillation, a little amusement, I don't know. What I was not expecting was to laugh until I cried, to not be attracted to the dancers in the slightest, but to be kissed buy one of them anyway. There were so many moments in the show that I would like to share, but I will limit myself to two.

The tears of laughter came right at the beginning. The men had already done a few dances and I was already in a high-strung, slap-happy mood. The DJ announced, during a costume change, that the "Lads from down undah, these strapping Aussie boys", would now fulfill all of our fantasies. "Give it up for, the Pirates of the Caribbean!" I think I managed to squeak "the Caribbean in Australia?!" before I dissolved into laughter. Literally. Sprawled across the table, in utter hysterics. I think I missed all of the pirate number, which is a shame, since of the choices of pirates, Spartans, firemen, and cowboys, pirates are definitely at the top of my fantasy list. I'm pretty sure all the boys (I love the fact that I went with Chris, John and Travis) thought I was out of my mind, but I don't care.

My other favorite moment came when the DJ did his own striptease. He pulled a middle aged woman onto the stage - she was there for her daughter's 21st birthday party - and culminated the act by grabbing her hand and shoving it into the front of his pants. Sexual harassment aside, she loved it. She tottered off the stage in fits of glee, stuck her offended digits into her daughter's face and yelled, loud enough for us to hear over the music, "Smell my hand!!!"

I can't really top that last part, so I'll just say that while I loved visiting my friends in Vegas, I probably wouldn't go out of my way to visit that particular city again. Maybe. You never know. I do kind of miss those Australian boys.

*It didn't.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Los Angeles!

Now, I have been planning this trip since September. I knew fairly early on in the year that it would be a long, boring, cold one, and that at some point I would want to visit friends in a warmer part of the country. So I bought tickets to go to LA, Vegas and back again. I was originally supposed to leave Thursday morning, but then a storm hit and I ended up leaving on Friday afternoon.

I got into LAX at 11 pm and Rachel came to meet me at the airport. She claimed that it was freezing outside, which got a big belly laugh from me, as 'freezing' to her was 65 degrees, a temperature I hadn't seen in months. I pranced around outside in a t-shirt for a while before I realized that I needed to drag my suitcase about 18 blocks to her apartment. There was no more prancing after that.

Thursday was Chinese New Year, and the LA parade was on Saturday. One of two things I knew I wanted to do it LA was go see the festival, so we did.

I got some Korean barbecue (very Chinese) and a rabbit netsuke (also very Chinese), and we tried our best to enjoy the parade despite the assholes who tried to make everyone else sit down so they could see from their chairs.

We had dinner with Alex and Chad at an amazing South Indian restaurant. Over the course of conversation, The Room was mentioned. By happenstance, I had a copy of the film with me, Rifftrax included. After dinner we had a screening of this remarkable piece of cinema, and enjoyed every minute of it. Ok, most of the minutes. Maybe not the ones where Tommy Wiseau was naked...

Alex Rachel Me Chad
The first thing we did on Sunday was visit Whimsic Alley - THE Harry Potter store. Yes, they have a few Lord of the Rings related items, and a shameful Twilight room, but the majority is HP related. They even have a Great Hall in which to have children's parties. I could be 5, they don't know. I finally bought a Gryffindor scarf, since it was only $15 as opposed to the usual $40, and a St. Mungo's Hospital pin for Dave. My hope is that he puts it on his white coat.

Next we went to the George C. Page Museum, also known as the La Brea Tar Pit Museum. Interestingly enough*, the pits are not actually filled with tar. It is asphalt. Who knew.

*Not really

404 Dire wolf skulls on display

Skeletons of a camel (smoking kills, kids) and a buffalo, I think.

On the way to the Santa Monica Beach we stopped at the 3rd Street Promenade to get Rachel new sneakers and me some Pink Berry. We also found the violinist Josh Vietti. We ended up staying for an hour to hear his entire performance. Among other feats, he managed to play the only version of Pachelbel's Canon in D that I have actually liked. You can listen to said piece and a few others on his website, and I fully recommend doing so, and maybe buying his album.

We finally made it to the Santa Monica pier, which happens to look a lot like Super Silly Fun Land from Despicable Me.

We had arrived in time to watch the sunset, as you can see.

I kinda wish I knew who those two are, so I could send them this photo.

I don't know what is happening with the kids in this photo, but it looks so sad. The boy on the right later walked away from the group and sat by himself.

By the time we left the beach we were all really hungry, so we spent another hour and a half changing and finding a place to eat. By the time we got to an In-N-Out Burger, I was close to eating my tour guides. While we ate, all I could think about was how good those burgers were (Shut the fuck up, Donny!).

Afterward, we walked up and down the Hollywood Walk of Fame, looked at the various hand prints in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater, and were accosted by some creep. That last part was just me.

Monday morning we went to Beverly Hills to 'window shop'. This amounted to laughing at the insane prices and styles of most of the outfits we saw. One wedding gown in particular looked like it had been constructed from "newsprint someone bought at Michael's" (Rachel). Newsprint and a lot of giant, fake, taupe roses.

We saw the headquarters for the WGA (Writer's Guild of America) West and stopped into the library to take a look at a script (The Fellowship of the Ring, naturally). Lots of random capitalization, exclamation marks and unnecessary sentences. Weird. The librarian who checked our IDs had once lived in Syracuse while her husband taught at VPA. LA really is the second home for SU grads.

We moved on to the farmer's market on 3rd and Fairfax and saw this guy reading over a script with his agent. I was a bit too excited about that.

The Grove was right around the corner so we went to look at the shops. Also, The Grove looks like this:
I may never go home.

Finally, it was time to go to the taping of the Late, Late show with Craig Ferguson! I was the 4th to last person admitted (the show only has an audience of 104) and he was visibly exhausted (which is allowed, since he is a new father). The show was still really awesome and if I can find all of the clips, I will put them in a separate blog post.

Rachel was in class while I saw the show, so I made my way back all by myself. I knooow, so grown up!

Just an extension of Monday, really. I was awake by 3:30 am, Chad was a darling and drove me to the airport and I flew to Las Vegas at 7:30. Sin City, here I come!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Maine: A Love Story

I was holding off on writing my long, bitchy "I hate this state" post until I knew that I would not be living here another year. Having gotten the news last week that Dave got into the 3rd year rotation program in Reading, PA (oh, happy day!), it is now time to say it like it is.

The Demographics.
Everyone in Maine is white. Not quite, but a good 99% of the people I have seen are. Really. Every time we see someone who has some amount of melanin, we get excited. It's that rare of an occasion. This means that ethnic food (of any ethnicity other than 'White/Caucasian") is relitively non-existent. There are a few good restaurants (Thai, Japanese, Irish, Mexican), but this means traveling up to an hour. Anything remotely exotic is not carried in any store (I had someone look at me like I was speaking in tongues when I asked for red bean paste at the grocery store), and the few things that are (vibrant green mangoes) are insanely overpriced. I pine for New York City on an almost daily basis.

The Weather.
The weather in Maine, in general, sucks. The summer was beyond miserable - close to 100 for about a month, with little to no airflow through our apartment. This was also the time when I was most unemployed, and I essentially melted for the entire season. Angrily. It is now January, and we get what the weather channels refer to as "a wintry mix". As though the combination of wind, snow and freezing rain is a delicious, seasonal Chex mix flavor. What it is is bullshit. It snows 6 inches during the day, then somehow warms up AFTER the sun has set and begins to rain. That rain instantly turns to ice and makes everything from pavement to decorative shrubs life-threatening. This fuckery leads us nicely to:

The Apartment. Or more properly, the landlords. In their defense, they are much better than the landlords I had for the past two years who I would caution ANYONE against. I will not speak of them here, for that is an entire 25 blog posts of hatred. These guys are perfectly nice, as I have never met them. I'm not actually on the lease - I am "second tenant". Our rent invoice is sent every month with a self addressed, stamped envelope, which I deeply appreciate.

However, there are a number of issues I do have, all revolving around that wonderful responsibility of landlords, "maintenance". There are no working lights in one stairwell, but there are copious amounts of massive spiderwebs, complete with massive spiders (now, finally, dead). The outside steps, which we were told would be filled in before we moved into the apartment in June, are still not.

The past month has been the worst. With a massive snowfall every week, there have been 3 days now where I had to call off work - in part because I would not have felt safe driving, but mostly because our driveway had not been plowed and I couldn't leave if I wanted to. The man with the plow visits at 4pm or later and does not use salt. The result is a 2" layer of ice across the entire parking area. I have not fallen yet, but it is only a matter of time.

The Neighbors. This house contains 5 apartments. Each has its own distinct personality. Apartment 1 occupies the entire ground floor. The oddities who live there have been (fondly) nicknamed Tim the Enchanter and Marge the Barge.

Tim was the first person I met after moving in. He stalks around the yard with a walking stick and a hat decorated with fishing lures, studying the turtles in the river and attempting to convert me to Paganism. His truck is plastered with bumper stickers, my favorite of which is "Born Again Wiccan". His 'better half' (his term, not mine) is truly massive. She has been firmly planted in an armchair every time I have seen her, and given Tim's magical ways, she may actually be a part of it.

There was, in fact, a time when we thought The Barge was simply a figment of Tim's imagination - he talked about her constantly, but was always conveniently asleep, so we could not meet her. 'Tim the Enchanter and Marge the Barge' doesn't have quite the ring to it that 'Tim the Enchanter and his Invisible Girlfriend' did. They also have a cat. I am quite sure that Tim simply magicked some hair and teeth onto a bowling ball and called it a day.

Apartment 2 is next to us on the second floor. I think she is a nurse, and works odd hours, which explains the TV noise at 3am. The only personal interaction with her that I have had was when she pounded on our shared wall at 1 in the morning on Thanksgiving. This, I fully admit, was entirely my fault. I was constructing a bookcase at the time, and there is no possible way to be quite while hammering nails.

Apartment 4 is directly above us. I have never actually met Nick, as passing in the hall and grunting is not a polite way of introducing oneself. I feel that we have a fairly intimate relationship, however. He is currently walking around his living room with the force of a small elephant. He once was kind enough to share his music with me for an hour. If only it hadn't been the same song on repeat, and loud enough that I would have been able to hear more than just the bass line.

The real depth in our relationship comes from the event I experienced a few months ago. Nick brought his girlfriend/one night stand/cocker spaniel home with him and made athletic and passionate love to her. This was amusing for about half an hour, and was accompanied with quiet cheers and encouragements from Dave and I. Then it got to be about 1:30 am and Dave fell asleep. Nick and the spaniel (no idea what her name was, but she sounded like a small dog being abused, so there we are) did not. The sound would crescendo, they would be blissful for a few minutes, I would prepare to sleep, and then it would start again. I think they finally tuckered out at 3, and were at it again at 8 when I got up for work.

This would have been simply an annoying and amusing story to tell my friends if they had not been loud enough to bother Apartment 2 as well. She called the landlord to complain and told him that it was us. I had a moment of feeling rather silly at being so righteously angry over being blamed for having loud sex, but damn it, it had kept me awake too! I called the landlord with a message that amounted to "No, no, good sir, twas not I!" and I think I officially lost my cool, twenty-something card, but whatever. If I get noise complaints from neighbors, I want to earn it.

Lastly is apartment 5, which is a weird addition on the first floor of the house and seems to include a basement. The couple that lived there when we moved in smoked a lot, and bitching about that was the only brain power I wasted on them. The moved out before Christmas, and it stood empty until a few days ago, when a Uhaul showed up. I'm not certain if new people are moving in, or if the landlords are moving stuff out, but doubtless this will lead to more fun stories.

Those are all of the major things we deal with, but the thing that causes the most frustration, the most heartache, the most pain, happens on a daily basis.

The Shower. The shower in our apartment is retarded or evil, or both. One sets it to a pleasant temperature, and it stays there. For about 5 seconds. Just enough time for you to get comfortable and start shampooing or shaving or something else that requires both hands. Then it begins fluctuating. I haven't taken a thermometer to it, but 10 degrees below and 15 degrees above the desired temperature seems to be about right. In the summer this didn't matter so much - it was so hot that any shower I took was really cold anyway. Now that it is below freezing almost all the time, it is a problem. The temperature drops and you are suddenly shivering, and then it bounces back up, so far past where you want it to be that you hop out from under the stream, shrieking as you feel your skin begin to blister.

As this is Maine, all I can think is that somewhere out there, there is a giant lobster with a dial, cackling madly.