Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Free Beer Thing in the Mail

So, the Sherbs and I sorted through our mail after our Israel jaunt, and we found a mysterious brown package in the mail. It was too small to be a bomb, but we just had no idea what it actually was. I opened it up, and found a triangular piece of metal.

Since I do not live in a Dan Brown novel, it was not the key to an ancient treasure, but instead, I said,

"Hey, it's the free beer thing I ordered!"

A while back, Bass Ale had a promotion for a "beer brolly" which allegedly aided in the creation of black-and-tans. (It, sadly, expired yesterday.) All you had to do was sign up and eventually you get a metal device which makes the beer strata of the black-and-tan more likely. Which I just did.

Users of the brolly have had mixed results, to say the least. And the Sherbs doesn't drink beer, much less "the stout of your choice" (as Bass's parent company does not own Guinness). So we won't be trying it out immediately. But it's cool to have; it sits on our booze shelf next to the Patron Silver and the butterscotch schnapps we got in duty free.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Yes, I know I was crappy about blogging while we were in Israel. No excuses, especially since The Pedant bugged me about it daily. But - I will try to make up for it today with a post about dinner last night (and my lunch today).

So since we had a miserable connection in Madrid, our plan for food shopping went out the window since TP and I were so tired we couldn't do anything but unpack, post pictures, order pizza and watch some TV (note the connection: doing things in the house, mostly sitting; none of these occur in a supermarket). Sadly, that means our fridge is bare and although we have some non-perishables, the amount of good, healthy food we can eat is sadly not much. Yet, last night I was able to concoct a meal of no fresh produce! Hooray! It was a "Japanese" Noodle Soup. (The quotations will not end up here, trust me, it was loosely Japanese.) Another reason for it: I developed a cold after 2 1/2 days of travel.

The ingredients:

Parve Chicken Consume
A few squeezes of minced ginger in a tube
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Frozen veggies (spinach, "California medley")
A handful of dried shitake mushrooms
Soba noodles

I basically started cooking it before my exercise class and it came out surprisingly well. It tasted all home-y and delicious. Perfect to make me feel better.

Tomorrow's dinner (and, well, lunch) may be a problem. Also Thursday's...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Food Photo Post - Israel!

Here are our Israel food pictures!

Here's what the appetizer course at Samir's looks like about 2/3 of the way through. If you come for dinner at Samir's, there's still more food. Lots of it. Notice the multiple kinds of hummus and the foul, which my mom makes a version of.

This is what my meal at Burger Ranch looked like. Had I known that they also gave out packets of barbecue sauce and sweet and sour sauce upon request, I would totally have done so. Here they only gave me kosher for Passover ketchup and that most Israeli of condiments, thousand island dressing. No, really. They love that stuff on everything.

Food Photo Post - Canada!

Today, this blog is like all the other food blogs, because I managed to sync my digital camera with our iMac and now you can have pictures of food! Welcome to the twenty-first century of blogging!

First, the Canada pictures that we promised something like four months ago.
Here is a toffee on snow thing that I didn't feel confident enough in my French to buy. It looked good, though.
Here's our first meal in Quebec City; Caesar salad, French onion soup, and poutine. Delicious, if heart-stopping.

I Would Love Madrid, But...

Spent a night in Madrid.

Didn't mean to, of course; wanted to be back in the US of A, where my witticisms are understood and not stared at with confusion by the locals. But something was not quite right with my Iberia flight from Madrid, so Iberia Lineas Aeras packed all of the travelers off to hotels for the night.

Good points: I got sleep, free food, Madrid stamp in my passport.

Bad points: too tired to see Madrid, even though everyone says it's open late (like Taco Bell and Wendy's!), my travel experience was never-ending, although not quite as bad as my forty-hour trip to Australia.

Read Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain on the way over to Israel, knew well enough not to order fish in a non-coastal city on a Sunday. The comped meal at the hotel included free bottles of mineral water and wine, which the Sherbs and I finished out of pique and principle.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Last Post From Israel

I am leaving for the airport at 3AM. I am not looking forward to driving the rental car back at that time; I suspect that there will be much fussing with the keypad as I am not Jason Statham at the best of times, sometimes turning the key after I hear two beeps just to hear the starter stutter because I must let the beeps ring out for their full length.

Got Burger Ranch today, including some for the plane. Super happy about that. The Sherbs's uncle tells me he'll show me real Israeli burger-smithing on my next trip to Israel; that, and "Mini Israel" (an attraction across from the Tank Museum that we did not have time to see) are reason enough to come back.

Also, Haifa. Still haven't been there since I tried in 2006 and Hezbollah ruined my vacation. Will go there next time.

Furthermore, the Sherbs mentioned that there was a really awesome "tel" (as in layered ancient city, not "show and") that puts the one we hiked all over today to shame. It even has underground waterways, which I enjoyed so much when I was in Caesarea.

So, definitely coming back. Just not soon - travel budget for the next five years already committed.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pre-Breakfast Post

Last day in Israel - probably going to be low key as my flight leaves tomorrow at what is officially TOO EARLY. May see a "tel," or huge mound o' piled up past civilizations. Will try to eat more Burger Ranch. We will see what happens.

Forgot to mention the big food surprise yesterday, which is that the cafeteria-style restaurant near the Latrun Tank Museum / Fallen Tank Officers Memorial is officially Not Bad, exceeding Mediocre by a wide margin. The salads were tasty and they can roast a kebab.

The tank museum is also worth going to if you, like me, love to look at tanks. They had three, count 'em, three, mobile bridge deployment vehicles. I think I had a GI Joe version of one. I impressed The Sherbs with my ability to determine the country of origin and special features for post WWII tanks; sadly for those single guy readers of the blog out there, I do not think she would have been as impressed had she not already been engaged to me - the tank museum is not a good first date unless your date operates a tank herself.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, and also the Cheesiest

In Israel, Cheetos are advertised as being fortified with Omega-3 fatty acids. The Israelis are evidently more concerned with Chester Cheetah's health spiel than with his exhortations to vandalism and assault, which is the current American ad campaign.

An elaboration about Samir's, which has great food and is worth a trip to Ramla for. Samir does meat very well; he does chicken hearts quite tastily (they're the ones in the dish that don't taste like chicken livers, the other organ meat) and kebabs even better. There's a chicken with onion dish that is indescribable other than oil-fried delicious. Dessert may include a custard with rose water that is, if you like rose water, creamy and worth it. The baklava are so-so; there's plenty of other great food, just leave those be.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Salads and Knife Fights

Mostly touristy foods yesterday; we saw the Israel Museum, which was jam-packed, half-closed for renovations, and had some tasty kosher for Passover salads (the sandwiches, I heard, were a little disappointing). Once again I am impressed with the mixed greens of Israel.

Also tasty was the shwarma place called "Big Shwarma" 1/3 of the way down the pedestrian part of Ben-Yehuda Street. The chopped meat on a rotating spit was well-spiced and quite tasty, and served with fries and veggies (no pita this week, for obvious reasons).

I also discovered, while scanning the local cable channels, that Israel has its own version of Iron Chef called something like "Knife Fight." In Knife Fight, each chef prepares a course for a celebrity panel, and they vote yay or nay; the yays and nays are tallied up per course throughout the five-course meal. Sadly, the French chef ("Stephan") beat the local hero, even though he made what looked like sweetbreads. As I've mentioned before on this blog, you can make sweetbreads taste good.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Coffee Break!

As I am over jet lag, I have given up on coffee for the moment; caffeine is not good for me. However, while at the shuk in Tel Aviv (or, more accurately, in the cluster of Kosher for Passover certified restaurants on Allenby Street right across from the shuk), I stopped at a coffee shop whose name escapes me now (it's a chain) and had a "cheese salad."

It was roquefort, parmesan, and shredded Israeli salted cheese (there are "standard cheeses" in Israel by which others are measured; "salted cheese" and "yellow cheese" are two species, and you ask for them in the store under those names) on top of some red lettuce-heavy mixed greens. (I love the more watercress-y greens with texture and crunch, which this salad had plenty of. Lightly dressed, which was perfect.

It makes me sad for going back to the United States with its wilty "mixed greens" that are not crunchy or flavorful. I love romaine as much as the next guy, but it's not enough.

Dinner was fish. I had sea bream. It was pretty good, although I think I liked the pickled herring appetizers more. I love me some pickled herring. If the Sherbs would let me, I'd have a tub of pickled herring with cream sauce in the fridge. It is good stuff.


So if I don't blog tonight, The Pedant will be quite mad at me. So I will do this quickly as we had a busy day today and a busy one tomorrow. And I'm tired.

First and foremost, a hello to a fan we met today at BurgerRanch! YAY! :-)

Next, and importantly, the food. Here's a quick run-down:

Thursday/Friday: Plane food. Actually not bad. On the Iberia flight for the vegetarian meal I got a small bottle of lemon olive oil as a condiment. Quite delish.

Friday: Dinner at Aunt and Uncle's. Tasty. Plus an Aunt Belle's chocolate cake. Which is heaven in a cake. My mom makes it for special occasions and it's great, but my aunt (who is the great-niece of Belle) doubles the whipped cream and it's fantastic. Take a hint mom.

Saturday: Samir's for the best hummus ever. Really. This is the way all meals should be eaten - with hummus and pita and salads. We are hopefully going back this week for more. YAY! Passover meal was incredible. Hard Matzah balls, rice during the meal (usually a no-no for us of Eastern European decent) and tasty tasty sides.

Sunday: Leftovers - amazing. Plus a "light" evening meal and a walk on the marina. Fun!

Monday: A meal with distant relatives of TP. I was forced to eat the shakshuka which was amazing. (By forced I mean I was looking forward to just a hearty soup but was quilted into a soup and a shakshouka by the elder relative. I was also forced into a delicious coffee afterwords.) A nice walking tour of Tel Aviv. An amazing dinner at a cousin's house.

Tuesday: The BurgerRanch excursion was fun. I ate the fries. Not bad. Then a real meal at home base - Matzah, hummus, quiche, salad, etc. Then off the the shuk for fun crafts and a walk, an afternoon "limonana" - lemonade with mint - and a fish dinner (salads and "chips" (fries) for me!) and dessert here. Ready to burst!!

Only problem we've noticed is the lack of iced coffee. "Iced coffee" here is a blended drink with condensed milk and water and sugar and Turkish coffee. Since the coffee is all fabulous and Turkish there are no Starbucks on every street corner serving crap. Only the best here. It drove my father crazy trying to get an "American" iced coffee.

Burger Ranching Like John Wayne (or appropriate rancher stereotype)

I was at Burger Ranch. It was better than advertised.

Okay, so the hot dogs were mostly parts of the cow I don't want to know about, and tasted that way (bland - not offal-riffic, like, say, paté de tété or mortadella). But the potato rolls, despite being slightly greasy, were excellent burger buns. And the Burger Ranch burgers were pretty darned good; on par or better with the Whopper or Wendy's burgers.

Now I am thirsty. Off to drink a liter of water.

I did take pictures; hopefully they will be posted sometime.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tel Aviv Melange

Things that still annoy me about Israeli traffic:

1. Police cars always have their top flashers on. So, if one's behind you, it's not a problem until he turns on his other flashers and then the siren.

2. Totally inadequate signage. Street signs are tiny and sometimes on a side of the street you can't see. Not good for navigation.

3. Tel Aviv was designed for maximum driver frustration. Lots of one-way streets ending in "T" intersections with other one-way streets. This is way worse than the whole "all highways branch" issue.

Things that were awesome today:

1. Tour of Bauhaus Tel Aviv. A lot of it was built in the 1920's and 1930's and looks cool.

2. The Sherbs and I can navigate Israeli highways with moderate success and a minimum of yelling at each other, which is good for the driver/navigator relationship. We did end up going to Karme Yoseph with a side tour through scenic Ramla (n.b. - Ramla is the Detroit of Israel, including a "Detroit Street"), but fortunately we did want to be on Highway 44 eventually, so it wasn't a big deal.

3. Dizengoff street in Tel Aviv is pretty darned cool, and not just for the cafes.

4. Israeli goths. Like American goths, but mind-bendingly inexplicable. Imagine stereotypical-looking Israeli teens, who are all looking army-ready and tough, in all black (in 80-degree weather) and with too much eyeliner. They look like bad vampire movie extras.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Some Israeli Kvetching About Traffic

Opinions are mixed as to the quality of the Kosher for Passover Burger Ranch products. I have heard their buns described as "super-tasty" and better than the regular ones to tasting like they're "made out of spray foam insulation."

Israeli traffic requires some significant getting used to. Yellow lights last maybe 2-4 seconds; you slow down instead once the green light starts blinking. Nobody uses turn signals and every highway branches off in a "Y" shape instead of having a decent American off-ramp (at least I haven't hit so many roundabouts yet). Also, the speed limits are either 50 km/h or 100 km/h depending on whether a road is a major highway or not, but I am completely unable to tell the difference and the prevailing speed of traffic is not helpful.

Also, who designed the curves on these roads? When there is a speed limit sign, such as one reading 50, that is the absolute maximum speed for the curve or one will go spinning off the road (possibly why Israelis can't stay in their lanes when on curves).

The signs are trilingual, but like where I live in DC, most of the intersections give end points which are super-unhelpful. I-495 in Maryland splits into two directions: "Richmond" and "Silver Spring," despite the fact that I-495 is a loop (and doesn't actually go to Richmond) and most travelers want to go to neither of those places. So, regularly, I have to figure out whether I'm heading to Tel Aviv instead of Haifa, when I in fact want to be in neither of those places.

Finally, Israeli cars are regularly equipped with a keypad ignition lock as an anti-theft mechanism, as if I were Jason Statham in The Transporter. This is far less cool than it sounds, as repeatedly entering a five-digit combination, only to turn the key and hear the flailing of the starter that means that one failed to start the rental car, is not action-hero material.


Luggage is still not here because the lost baggage people are dysfunctional. They should give me another bag of toiletries to make up for it.

This morning I went to Samir's, a restaurant in the kind of slummy part of Ramla. Samir discovered during a renovation that his restaurant was in a twelfth-century crusader building, so the old stonework is now on display and is very attractive. We arrived for the last pre-Passover pita, so he didn't have any meat products ready, but we did have plenty of salads (which means something different in Israel than it does in the US - more like dipping options), hummus, and felafel, all of which was tasty. The felafel was properly green inside and there were a variety of hummus and chickpea products for each chickpea-related desire.

The best news I've heard recently is that Burger Ranch, an Israeli fast food chain and one of the few companies to realize the ultimate deliciousness of adding hot dog bits to french fries, will have kosher for passover food. This is the exact reason why I am in Israel right now, and I am, as the English say, chuffed.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Across the Ocean...

Here we are in sunny Israel, having survived the fourteen hour plane ride. Our luggage is not with us, as our flight to Madrid was delayed, and Iberia Lineas Aeras refused to give us boarding passes for Tel Aviv in DC, so we had to stand behind some very irate Israelis at the Iberia customer service counter who would not let anyone else try to get on a plane until they had badgered the Iberians into making a connection for them to Miami. As a result, we were VERY late for the plane, and the El Al security officer told us that our luggage had not been cleared to fly with us. It will be delivered tomorrow.

Instead, we got two sizeable toiletry bags from El Al. These almost make up for not getting our luggage. They come in two genders; one has more shaving stuff, one has more moisturizer. They both include pyjamas, although they are size "M" at the largest. There are also socks with little nubblies on the bottom. I am very amused.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lies, damnable lies!

The New York Times, where Jayson Blair spun his web of deceit, is once again spreading foul lies; this time, they write that "Dr. Pepper is a Republican soda."

The Sherbs and I would disagree. We are, at the very least, not reliable Republican voters (and some would say we're somewhat further on the "not-Republican" spectrum than that). And yet, we drink Dr. Pepper. I have a can sitting next to me right now.

Dr. Pepper knows no politics. It's "Republican-ness" is probably solely due to the fact that it's a Texas-based beverage, and Texas tilts Republican right now. When Ann Richards was the governor, Dr. Pepper was a Democratic beverage, I'm sure.

Dr. Pepper is also available in Canada, where I am fairly certain it is not associated with the Conservative Party (I'd personally hope that it's not the beverage of the Liberal Party either, but instead the Bloc Quebecois).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Onland, ever upland

I drove a Chevy Uplander today.

Has anyone else ever heard of this vehicle? It's freaking huge. I needed the hugeness, because I was hauling a piece of furniture, but it was kind of ridiculous.

Great drive feeling, though. No complaints about the rate of acceleration from the automatic transmission, smooth road feel, and could go over speed bumps at twenty miles per hour without complaint. Got maybe seventeen miles to the gallon.

Yesterday, I provided free legal advice to people. Many people do not know how to value their personal injury lawsuits.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Maybe Free Dr. Pepper?

As many of you in the Pepper-sphere have long known, Dr. Pepper has offered a free can to every citizen of these great United States (suck it, Canadians! Our drink! As the LOLcats say, "not yours"!) should Guns 'n Roses finally release the album they've been "working" on for fifteen years.

Evidently, now that the money's on the table, Axl Rose has decided that soaking the Waco-based subsidiary of Cadbury-Schweppes is way better than an eternal asymptotic search towards artistic perfection. The "Chinese Democracy" album is allegedly in the hands of the record label.

Take me down to Paradise City, where evidently all citizens get a free can of Dr. Pepper.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I am a prophet!

The Sherbs will attest that this is old news, but since we haven't blogged in forever, you haven't heard it yet.

Two weeks ago, we wanted to make a key lime pie for a guest who was coming over. We picked a recipe from the Weight Watchers' "comfort food" cookbook, which guaranteed that it would be acceptably benign.

Then we hit the Teet with a vengeance, getting limes, condensed milk, fat-free non-dairy topping, and a low-fat graham cracker crust. What we didn't do, though, is get gelatin, a necessary ingredient.

Knox seems to have a lock on the grocery store gelatin market. This is good, in the "Mrs. Knox ran the company for 40 years through the first half of the 20th century and therefore is a kickass feminist icon" sense, but not in the "gelatin is made from treif animals" sense, and we try to keep our apartment kosher vegetarian. We couldn't find kosher, much less vegetarian, gelatin for love or money, and not only did we try the Teet, but we tried Whole Foods (which also just carried Knox) and Trader Joe's (which carried no gelatins at all).

We went to sleep that night very disappointed, but the idea came to me the next morning in a dream: agar-agar. I then called around the local grocery stores to find some, but nobody had heard of it. I then tried the Super H Mart relatively close to us. On the phone, they had no idea what I was talking about, but none of the clerks I spoke to had a particularly accomplished grasp of the English language.

It took some searching through the claustrophobic aisles of dessicated anchovies and seaweed, but we found some packets which said they were agar-agar. We bought them with trepidation, as the "call for comment" number was in Thailand.

We used the agar-agar at a 1:1 for gelatin, and it worked out pretty well. It does have to be mixed with stuff because, when made to gel, it smells a little too much like its seaweed origins, and we were first worried that the condensed milk had gone off. That disappeared when we folded in the non-dairy whipped topping.

The pie turned out very tasty, mostly because the Sherbs rocks at pie-making. I can only claim credit for gelatin substitutes, which I can summon forth from my dreams.

Most Delicious Treif Cocktail Ever!

The bacon-infused Old Fashioned.

For more mixed-drink variety, you can always make bacon-infused vodka.