Monday, April 25, 2011

Around the World in a Champagne Flute

A long time ago, maybe fifteen years or more, I happened to catch an episode of Michael Palin's Around the World in 80 Days. The Monty Python alum had matured into a world traveler, visiting ports far and wide and reporting on them for his television show. In the episode I watched, Michael almost literally washed up on the shores of Hong Kong after an arduous journey by ship on the South China Sea. I didn't know much about Hong Kong at the time, just that it was an exotic, modern city of skyscrapers that either was or wasn't part of China. I'm much clearer on that whole topic now.

In the episode, Michael was picked up by car and whisked away to his friend Basil's apartment high in the sky. Basil was a cute Asian gentleman with nerdy glasses and a pretty wife carrying their newborn baby in her arms when they welcomed Michael in broad daylight to their home. Even though it was maybe lunch time, the first thing Basil offered Michael was a glass of champagne, which he happily accepted and they proceeded to enjoy the bottle on the balcony of the skyscraper apartment. I remember watching that and thinking it was about the most sophisticated thing I'd ever witnessed. I mean, who keeps a chilled bottle of bubbly on hand for visitors who happen to swing by? I was enchanted by the idea of a friend popping by to see me some afternoon and me suggesting we pop a bottle of champagne and sip the afternoon away. I vowed at that moment that I would always keep a chilled bottle of bubbly in my refrigerator, ready should a friend come by during broad daylight. I'd never seen that episode of Around the World in 80 Days again, but I'd thought of it often when I saw the bottle of bubbly keeping cool next to my butter and juice.

And now, more than fifteen years later, I still keep a bottle of champagne chilling in the fridge, just in case. Of course, I've never had the opportunity to casually pop open a bottle because my friends aren't really the pop-in types and I'm usually at work during the day, but still I keep restocking a new bottle when I inevitably drink the other bottle myself because I don't want it to get too old.

Fast forward to Hong Kong, March 2011. The country is now back in the possession of China after a long stretch under British rule and, more importantly, I'm going to visit for the first time to see my dear friend Lisa and her husband, who moved there a couple of years ago for her job. After ten long, hot, beautiful but challenging days in northern India, my parents and I arrived in Hong Kong where a car picked us up at the airport and whisked us off to Lisa and Kwesi's apartment high in the sky. As we settled into the comfortable leather furniture on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, Kwesi offered to pop open a bottle of champagne. My head started spinning, I had certainly never shared the Michael Palin story with Lisa and Kwesi, yet here I was in Hong Kong, in broad daylight, high up in a skyscraper overlooking Victoria Harbor, drinking a flute of champagne with friends. It was like my life had come full circle and some unintentional self-fulfilling prophecy had come to fruition.

Fast forward again to Minneapolis, April 2011. Upon returning home I shared this story with my sweet boyfriend, Doug. I told him how magical it was to feel like I was walking in the shoes of Michael Palin, going around the world and serendipitously repeating a part of his journey that had meant so much to me. Just recently Doug and I were out for a walk and went past the wine and spirits store in my neighborhood. We ducked in to see what looked good and Doug purchased a really nice bottle of Moet & Chandon champagne, even though I protested that it cost too much. When we returned to my place, Doug placed the bottle of bubbly on the counter and next to it a new DVD copy of Michael Palin's Around the World in 80 Days, so that I could watch the Hong Kong sequence once again after all this time and relive the magic that I had lived in real life just weeks before.

Feel free to stop by some afternoon, the champagne is on ice.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Quantum Leap

I get just a little bit too excited about winning stuff, even if it's just a can of pop or a balloon or something. So imagine how over the moon I was when tonight I found out I won a cool $60 scale!

I have a blog roll that I follow pretty regularly, all sorts of blogs about food, photography, travel, and anything else that tickles my fancy. From time to time certain bloggers have giveaways but I'm not usually interested in the products. This time, however, I was intrigued when Ex Hot Girl, a photographer and weight loss blogger, posted a giveaway of something called a Quantum Scale. So I left a comment on her blog, which doubled as a drawing entry, and when I visited Ex Hot Girl's blog tonight, I saw my face staring back at me with the announcement that my comment had been randomly chosen as the winner!

But I didn't win just any scale, it's the Quantum Scale and instead of registering your weight, it only registers the amount you've lost (or gained, gulp). When you step on it for the first time, it secretly records your weight and then every time you subsequently step on it, it lets you know how much your weight differs from your starting weight, without reminding you what that actual number was or is. So, in theory, you can just keep track of the amount you're losing without obsessing about your exact triple digits. I know it might just be a mind game, but I'm excited to give it a try - for free! Woo hoo!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What's Being Missed

Just over one and a half weeks into a month of eating vegan and people are asking quite often what foods I miss most. Honestly, I don't really miss too many foods, partly because it hasn't been that long and partly because I know I can have them again in a few weeks. But that said, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I might be missing chicken, at least a little bit. Everywhere I turn there's chicken. A new cooking show called the Spice Goddess introduced me to a dish of chicken and yogurt and spices that made me swoon just a little, and an article in a work publication today about the expansion of the delicious Portuguese chicken chain Nando's almost pushed me over the edge. Which got me to thinking about the wonderful Amish chicken I had at Cafe 128 the night before this month started (photo above). Oh, that chicken with blue cheese mashed potatoes was good. It's just a few more weeks, right?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Weekend Vegan

My first vegan weekend wasn't as bad as I worried it would be. That's probably because I'm not a healthy vegan, but rather I take it as it comes. What I mean is that I don't mind supplementing my healthy, green vegan lifestyle with Puffcorn and vegan chocolate. Hey, life is short.

Friday night Doug and I spent a lovely evening walking to Chipotle for a little din-din. Chipotle has great vegan options, like their black beans, fajita vegetables, rice, salsas, and guacamole. A big salad was in order downed with an undrinkable, skunky Corona beer. Didn't finish that, to be honest. Then we walked to the movie theater in my neighborhood to see Cedar Rapids (funny and local!) and I enjoyed a nice bag of Sour Patch Kids (naturally and accidentally vegan!). Doug got popcorn but poisoned it with butter, or buttery topping. I'm not sure if my local theater does the real thing or not, but I don't like my popcorn with any sort of liquid topping. I'm a salty purist, so it wasn't tempting for me to cheat.

Saturday morning my parents arranged a breakfast out for the whole family, and to accommodate my vegan lifestyle, they chose the Triple Rock Social Club. Yes, the Triple Rock is known for Free Bacon Wednesdays, but they also have tons of vegan menu choices. I opted for a mush of potatoes, fake nacho cheese sauce, scrambled tofu, and toast with vegan butter. Oh, and two delightfully large vegan Screwdrivers. After that we ventured on to a couple of meat raffles. Yes, that's wrong for a vegan, but to be fair, I didn't win any meat. Doug did, and lots of it - ha! But I shan't eat it until next month. Dinner was a delicious Thai vegan curry feast from Sen Yai Sen Lek that I would love to try again because just a little while later it was all gone when I barfed my guts out against my will. Curses! A perfectly fantastic vegan meal - gone!

On Sunday I tried to eat a little, a vegan banana pancake from the Seward Cafe, but while it was absolutely delicious, my stomach wasn't ready for it. Instead I watched Doug down the vegan biscuits with mushroom gravy and vegetables. The color of the gravy, I won't lie, was a bit off-putting, a weird gray hue instead of the usual whitish with peppery flecks. Doug, who was being nice and ordered something vegan, said that it wasn't horrible. He said the gravy lacked a certain depth but he liked the hearty biscuits and the unusual inclusion of vegetables.

The rest of my first vegan weekend was uneventful because no kind of food was good. Barfing makes it much easier to eat vegan because you don't miss food of any kind. Lesson learned.