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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;

Blogger Erin said...

Shan, I just wanted you to know that your food blog entries warm my heart. I expectantly check the page every few days, with the same sort of breathless hope with which I would check my mailbox in the dorms each day, and usually to no avail. But then every so often, a new entry pops up, and then what joy! So even though the rest of us are resoundingly shirking our duties, thanks for keepin' it going. And I will HAVE to try that polenta!!

10:23 PM  
Blogger shan said...

Awww! Now *that* is a compliment -- to be anticipated with dorm-mailbox fervor. Well do I remember those days. =) Hopefully now that Katie and I are about to be roomies, we will inspire each other to cook and post about our culinary exploits more frequently (also, her camera is wayyy better than mine. sweet!).

As for the polenta, I wonder how it would be with some of those slow-roasted tomatoes -- kind of a twist on polenta-with-marinara?

12:00 PM  
Blogger shan said...

Also, I forgot to say -- I actually always use skim milk and half-and-half in place of the whole milk and whipping cream, and the polenta is still delicious. (Of course, sometimes I am compelled to buy the whipping cream because Evgenia loves to drink the leftovers.)

2:06 PM  
Blogger lauren said...

I like Snappy Dragon, though one time there were bugs in my food. They were leftovers so it could've happened while it sat on my counter briefly in between being eaten and going into the fridge, so I'm ignoring it, lalala fingers in my ears!! Because their food is otherwise pretty good.

7:53 PM  
Blogger lauren said...

Also, have you read "Garlic and Sapphires"?

6:10 PM  
Blogger shan said...

Bugs, oh ew! I haven't tried Snappy Dragon yet but I am in love with Black Pearl (and not just because the name makes me think of Captain Jack Sparrow and Co.) on 35th (there's one in Shoreline too). The Mongolian beef is just too delicious.

I did read "Garlic and Sapphires," but didn't enjoy it quite as much as "Tender at the Bone." In the first book, I think, you can still pretend that Ruth Reichl might grow up to be someone you would want to be friends with. Of course, the second and third are still worth reading for the food stories, but I think she gets more unlikeable as she gets older.

Long comment, wooo!

11:30 AM  
Blogger lauren said...

The BLACK PEOW! That's my Barbosa impression.

OMG I found somewhere (in the credits for the 2nd movie?) that they spell it Barbossa, which I feel is totally not pronounced the way they pronounce it. Also, I just spelled it "pronounse."

I liked "Garlic and Sapphires" -- found it amusing -- but need to reread "Tender at the Bone," apparently.

6:59 PM  

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