Sunday, March 28, 2010

How Not to Cook an Octopus

The guys who own the fabulous Sea Salt Eatery at Minnehaha Falls, which opens this coming week after their winter hiatus, threw their annual Ribfest party at the restaurant last night, inviting folks to enter their best ribs for all to taste and judge. Fourteen different entries were tested, along with sides and desserts, and lots of beer consumed. Money was also raised for St. Jude's Research Hospital, the Danny Thomas charity (as I think of it). But mostly, lots of beer was consumed, Surly and Fulton and Summit, and a poor octopus met a sad fate at the hands of fellows (not the Sea Salt fellows!) not in any condition to take good care of him.

I'm not a chef so I'm not dispensing cooking advice, but I would advise against drinking many beers and then throwing an unseasoned octopus on a hot grill and calling it a meal. I think this photo of the last moments of this poor guy's existence says it all.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Enter the Fishmonger

Dating a fishmonger with a love for cooking has its ups and downs. On the downside, less time to post on my blog. On the upside, an impromptu dinner of mackerel, oysters and asparagus prepared for me tonight after a long day at work. A gal could get used to this.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Best. Weekend. Ever.

I scored the coveted four day weekend and took full advantage of practically every minute, filling them with friends and food and drink and fun. Just the way it should be.

Friday night included an art opening, then a stunning nighttime view from the Guthrie's famed Endless Bridge, a place I consider to be one of the most beautiful places to visit in the city and do so often, and finally dinner for the first time at Sea Change, Tim McKee's sustainable seafood restaurant inside the Guthrie along the river. While I drank cocktails with odd combinations of ingredients like Sambuca and muddled basil that somehow worked perfectly together, the chef sent out a number of small plates of his choosing. Oysters with roasted jalapeno mignonette, impossibly thin cut albacore tuna with lardo, soffrito crudo and apple cider vinegar, langostines with hot olive oil, chili and rosemary, and my favorite, a sous vide and grilled octopus with a texture that evoked beef rather than the usual octopus mouth feel. It was spectacular. There were lots of other plates and cocktails, but the details are blurry after so much of everything. Suffice it to say it was all some kind of wonderful.

Wonderful seafood continued into Saturday night when I had my gals, The Hags, over for copious amounts of seafood and drinks and music while my friend Doug prepared course after course of glorious, mostly Japanese food for all of us. The menu included oysters on the half shell with a traditional shallot mignonette, soup with Dungeness crab and crab claws, soba noodles with dipping sauce, Kobe beef with smoked sea salt, eel rolls with jewel-like red fish roe, freshly made Korean kimchi, seared tuna with a citrus/pepper/sesame crust, and lots of sashimi - salmon, yellowtail, hamachi, and albacore. I didn't think I appreciated large oysters, but that has all changed and I could have them every day with a simple mignonette and never get sick of them. The same goes for my friends, except not with the mignonette. What a great evening.

Along came Sunday and Joe Henry was singing at the Dakota Jazz Club downtown. I am no Joe Henry expert and have subsisted mostly on his earlier alt-country music, not as much his more current stuff that's closer to jazz and Tom Waits, but I loved almost everything he did last night. He told a funny story about collaborating with his sister-in-law Madonna (yes, that Madonna) on a song that they agreed to each publish their own versions of. Joe said he turned his version into a tango and she turned hers into a hit: Don't Tell Me. His version was beautiful. Just like this weekend.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Away From Her

Everything changes when I miss a week on the Memory Care Unit. Last week's contagious cold left me thinking a visit was not in anyone's best interest, so I opted out and slept instead. Meanwhile, one of my very favorite gals, Leola, moved to another unit. Like other times, I had the uncomfortable task of asking where Leola was tonight, uncomfortable because I always fear the worst. Thankfully, she is still alive, but sadly, she has been moved to a unit for people who need to be assisted physically more than on my ward. I always thought Leola was one of the physical oxen on 2-South, but I guess strength is in the eye of the beholder because she's gone. I'll never forget the day she called out my full name from at least seven feet away, something that hasn't happened before or since on the Memory Care Unit. "Hey, Deb Ellis, I like your outfit," she let me know. It took me a second to realize she was reading my little name tag, and without glasses! I guess her eyes were strong but her limbs weak. I'm going to miss Leola.

It was a tough night on the unit, almost as if it were a full moon or something weird like that. Both Gudrun and Mary couldn't keep their eyes open and Mary wasn't wearing her teeth so her chin stuck out like a witch's and I spilled her protein shake down the front of her bright red track suit while trying to feed her with her head lolling backwards. When the nurse came around to record how much each resident had eaten, I told him he was going to fire me as a volunteer because I'd failed so miserably to feed my charges. He assured me it was okay, that they don't always eat much, but I couldn't help but feel guilty about my already too-skinny elderly friends. At least Bernice was having a good night, taking my good natured kidding in stride and giving it right back.

There's a new woman on the unit, her name is Karen. She's the youngest, prettiest gal I've seen there and I wanted to cry when she showed up at the dinner table with a man who I would guess is her husband from the kiss goodbye he gave her. Karen doesn't look a day over sixty, and she might be younger, but there she was on the dementia unit. Her husband left her there to eat and she sat next to Anita, the only spot available at the time. Karen looked uncomfortable and scared and like she'd rather be anywhere but there. You'd think everyone looks like that there, but they don't. They're either beyond being able to feel the tangible discomfort of life on a Memory Care Unit anymore or they've resigned themselves to their fate, only complaining infrequently that they want to go home. But Karen looked like a little girl at her first sleepover, frightened and shy and wanting her mommy. She reminded me of Julie Christie in the Oscar-winning movie, "Away From Her." In the movie, Christie's character is a victim of early-onset Alzheimer's and struggles between wanting to stay home with her husband and knowing she's a hazard there to him and to herself. She looks lost at the nursing home she chooses to go to, just like Karen did tonight. It's heartbreaking. I hope Karen settles in sooner than later and can relinquish some of the fear that fills her eyes.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dad's Night Out

You know you have a cool dad when you find yourself enjoying a cold 24-ounce Red Stripe beer with him at the sold out Avett Brothers show at First Avenue, right after sharing polenta fries and foie gras torchon at the Bradstreet Crafthouse. Awesome.