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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bye bye, Broadway
This is it, Capitol Hill. It's about to be over, but we had a pretty good two years, didn't we? Remember all those imaginary boyfriends? (Funny how they all worked in food service.) Remember Mojito Mondays and trivial Tuesdays, Sunday mornings at Top Pot and lazy brunches at the B&O? Sure, I'll miss the pointy library and the walk to downtown, Sunday nights at St. Mark's and the confluence of Bellevue-Bellevue-Bellevue. I'll miss the sound of the 14 screeching to a halt every 20 minutes in the mornings, and the way it sounds like the rain is actually happening in our apartment. I'll miss those things, but it's the food that reminds me and the food that'll bring me back.

There's a food memory lurking around every corner of this neighborhood. Toscana pizza on the couch with Evgenia, spicy crab cake sandwiches at the De Luxe with Katie, sweet potato ravioli at the Broadway Grill with Alison, Piecora's Green Machine with Lauren and Garth, La Puerta's mole enchiladas with Nic and Noella and John. I went to Pho Cyclo with Aaron and Than Brothers with everyone else. There was a farewell dinner with Evgenia and Erin at Café Septieme, and then, because we just couldn't let go, a farewell breakfast at the B&O the following morning. When Marissa came to town, we ventured out to Bleu Bistro and discovered the horseradish grilled cheese. If I think hard enough about it, I can almost taste the squishy-salty duo of Via Tribunali's prosciutto and mozzarella.

And then of course there was all that food we made ourselves. The Tuscan grape cake Erin and I made one lazy Sunday, from which our oven has never quite recovered. Evgenia's adventures in Greek cookery. Erin's crepe dinner and the pizza party we threw for Katie's birthday. Ginger muffins during the Pride Parade. Meg always getting stuck with the stirring. An evening of strawberries and cheese and Hugh Laurie, and many many evenings of sitting on the couch with a historical romance novel and a bowl of lentil-couscous salad, a gob of polenta, or a fat, drippy quesadilla.

A few weeks ago, Katie and I took a deep breath, handed over our Social Security numbers and salary information, and chose Wedgwood. Afterward, we felt like going out to dinner to celebrate, and as soon as I mentioned the B&O we both knew what we wanted. We walked over in the rain and sat in the window seat. When the servers came by, we both ordered Chinese noodles, tossed with sesame seeds, shredded carrots and scallion and topped with slices of gingery chicken, and we started planning. There's no way we're giving up brunch at the B&O or mojitos on Monday. But we'll have to make some doughnut boyfriends at a new Top Pot, try the Mongolian beef at Snappy Dragon, and search high and low until we find our local pub. It's not easy, but it feels like a good time to start new.

Sometimes it's hard to believe I'm really leaving. But then I remember: I can hop on a bus, and half an hour later, I'll be back on Broadway, fogging my glasses over a bowl of pho or weaseling a free vanilla americano out of a cute coffee guy. And the air will still smell like rain and cigarettes.

Peppery goat cheese polenta

I thought for a while about a recipe that would say something about the last two years, and here it is. If I've developed a culinary specialty, it's got to be comfort food, and this is the perfect example. It's easy (five ingredients, a few minutes of stirring) and delicious (who doesn't love goat cheese?), and just as good a weekend breakfast as a late-evening dinner. When the going gets tough, the tough should try this polenta.

4 cups milk (skim works fine)
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup cornmeal (coarse or medium, not finely ground)
Black pepper
Crumbled goat cheese (one 4- or 6-oz. tub) or equal amount of gorgonzola

Combine milk and cream in a saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring frequently, for about twenty minutes. Toward the end of the cooking process, stir in as much freshly ground black pepper as you can stand (I grind it to an almost alarming degree of coarseness). Once the cooking is done, remove polenta from heat and stir in the goat cheese. Gorgonzola works well too, but the flavor can be a bit overpowering and it doesn't melt as well. This polenta is approximately the consistency of a very thick oatmeal, but it firms up quite a bit after chilling. If it doesn't taste good cold as well as warm, it's not comfort food in my book, and this one passes the test with flying colors.

(By the way, much as I'd love to be able to take credit for the strawberry photo, I can't. It's by Katie.)

posted by shan at 8:17 PM; 7 comments

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to have coworkers that I sincerely like. Most people get along with their 9-to-5 buddies just fine, but I spend my workdays surrounded by people I'd actually choose to hang out with. And, even better, most of them are just as enamored of food as I am. Every Monday, film archivist Hannah and I give each other The Food Report, a rundown of everything memorable we consumed over the weekend. We all swap recipes and links to food blogs, descend en masse upon the vegetarian buffet at Flowers, and even poll the room for suggestions on what to have for lunch or whip up for a dinner party.

The only thing better than having awesome coworkers who love to talk about food is discovering that all of them can actually cook, too. When Hannah came up with the idea for a potluck to thank all of our coworkers for ruining their poor eyes matching negatives to contact prints, cleaning film until they nearly keeled over from the fumes, and just generally slaving away on our various projects, we had no clue what delightful dishes awaited us.

The King and Queen of the Grill fixed up grilled summer veggies, flank steak, and sockeye salmon from the mini-mart fishmongers. We piled our plates high with slices of vegetarian quiche, dollops of cold rice salad with olives and artichoke hearts (a hit even with the younger members of our party), and gobs of corn-avocado-black-bean salad (my first willing corn consumption in years).

The devilled eggs were gobbled up before I had a chance to take a picture. And then there were the desserts -- lemon yogurt cake with real whipped cream, blueberry cobbler, homemade brownies, fruit-and-yogurt parfait, and my own cheating contribution, an assortment of Top Pot doughnuts.

We stuffed ourselves until we couldn't eat another bite, and then we left Hannah with the leftovers. The next day, she turned them into a dinner party, and, true to form, came in on Monday and told us all about it.

posted by shan at 11:14 PM; 0 comments

A creature of habit
Another Weekend, Another Wedding
whole foods bastards
vine ripened
Bye bye, Broadway
Pretty in pink
Pesto dreams
Girl meets steak

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