Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Yummy Veggies, New Title and Bistro Reviews

I have food on my mind right now. It's been a busy week, cooking wise, so there is much to report. I even ate out at a couple of very enjoyable places this past week. I'd like to talk about those experiences. Also, today is super Bowl Sunday, a day for eating, drinking and watching the last professional football game until pre-season many months from now. Those are reason enough for thinking and writing about food. But there is one more reason food is on my mind. I have to go on a liquid fast on Monday for a diagnostic test I have on Tuesday. After a frenzy of Buffalo wings, sides and beer, there will be naught but clear liquids for me on Monday. That's no solid food until sometime Tuesday afternoon. It's been almost two years since I've had to do this kind of drastic fast. Back then, I didn't have an appetite to battle against. Oh, how times have changed. This will be fun. I wonder if beer or white wine count as clear liquids? Probably not.

Biscuit Battle and Other Skirmishes

I have made many attempts at baking buttermilk biscuits. The results have been satisfactory at best. I continue the fight, because I want to get away from fast food or supermarket biscuits and their applications (breakfast sandwiches, for instance). I am certain I have been following the directions in the recipes closely and correctly. Yet they would never be quite right. And then one day, Natalie Dupree announced on Facebook that her new book, Southern Biscuits was on sale for $1.99 on Kindle. This did me absolutely no good until she also announced that there was a free PC app for Kindle out as well. I uploaded the latter and downloaded the former immediately. This book is a revelation about the proper ingredients and techniques involved in making biscuits. Everything is simply but very carefully explained, including how to substitute ingredients that aren't available anywhere but the south. Because I viewed it as a simple dough, I don't think I took the same care with it as I would croissants or puff pastry. Truth be told, the methods for kneading and shaping are very similar just not as time consuming. I can see that one could make them quite quickly and easily with practice. This batch still didn't rise as much as I would have liked, but they were flaky, tender and melty. Jon found them to be a great accompaniment with the buttermilk fried chicken (I had a lot of buttermilk to get rid of). I've always like Natalie Dupree's shows on PBS. In fact, it is her recipe I use to make my Thanksgiving Turkey over 20 years after learning it. I was delighted that it was her book that put me on the path to biscuit righteousness.

I returned to the Culver City Farmer's Market on Tuesday. This time, I didn't have anything in particular in mind. I just wanted to really explore the tables. I was fairly certain that I would get more heirloom tomatoes, but that was all I really had in mind. I really wasn't expecting to get collard greens. I didn't expect to see any there. This isn't the south, so I didn't expect them to be grown widely at local farms. But I had forgotten that this hardy vegetable that was a staple for poor folk had become chic in Los Angeles. That's why it's selling at high class markets like Gelson's in Marina del Rey for nearly 4 bucks a bunch (crazy, I tell you). Well, I found collard greens at more than one booth. I bought the cutest little bunches I've ever seen – baby organic collards! My grandmother would have never stopped laughing, but I found them adorable at a quarter the size of a regular leaf. They were also incredibly tender when cooked with a little olive oil, garlic, onion and a cup of chicken stock. Lovely. The price was really great, too. They were about the same per bunch as at my favorite discount market. I will definitely look for those again. Being chic can have an upside, I suppose. The other meatless dishes I made this week was a French Onion soup. I like mine pureed and without the cheese and crouton topper. I did make a goat cheese souffle to go with the soup though. It's one that is baked twice thus I can freeze them and finish them later. This is important for me with these specialty dishes that only I like. If I can't freeze them, most of the batch would go to waste. I think I'm well set for yummy meatless dishes going into Lent.

Great Eats

I had errands to run in downtown Santa Monica early last week. It was a lovely day for strolling about, and I enjoyed just doing that a great deal. I don't get to that part of Santa Monica often anymore. Most of the reason is that I don't work there anymore. But part of me also has a negative association with the area. It's usually full of tourists who are problematic when you have stuff to do. And then the downtown is often teeming with the very entitled folks from Brentwood, the Pallisades and Malibu. They were all difficult customers for me when I worked at the Borders there. They aren't any better when I need to get a bunch of things on a list accomplished. But it was a chilly Monday, so the area was only sparsely populated.

Ozumo's Bar
Once I finished with my tasks, I was hungry. Once there were a lot of inexpensive restaurants of all types in downtown Santa Monica. They were a great resource for retail workers and tourists on a tight budget. As the area became more popular, everything changed. All those little food joints were replaced by upscale clothing shops. There is very little in the way of choices for retail workers now. I was not very hopeful. Still, I made my way to the rooftop dining deck on the poshly renovated Santa Monica Place. There, I found something quite unexpected. There was an Izakaya  (a Japanese bistro) called Ozumo. I found this intriguing as I had read about Izakayas but didn't think I'd run into one outside of Little Tokyo. There were Japanese tourists looking very happy in the outdoor beer garden. The bartender told me it was happy hour (2:30pm!) and there was a menu of appetizers. There was one item that I had yet to find outside of my kitchen, Karaage Fried Chicken. And then there was an Udon noodle soup that looked very much like one Anthony Bourdain had on his last show in Japan. They were very inexpensive, so I took a chance. The bartender also suggested the beer special, Primo Beer from Hawaii. Everything was delicious. For appetizers, the portions were generous. Those items with the beer were more than enough for me. Incidentally, that beer was amazing. I was stoked to find it at my nearby Beverage Warehouse, because it isn't carried in many places. Ozumo's servers were very sweet and knowledgeable. The place was gorgeous. It was a pleasant enough experience to possibly lure me back to that area for something other than an errand.


Ensnared Volume Two is Live! All versions of e-book are available at Smashwords HERE. There is also a full synopsis on that page. For those who prefer to order directly from Kindle, that should be live tomorrow or Tuesday. The print version will be live by the end of the week (hopefully). The print distributor has been on the slow side of late. Thank you for you patience. Fans of the Soldiers and Ensnared books may want to check out the blog on my yaoi page that covers why my characters are obsessed with food HERE. Don't worry, there aren't any major spoilers.

I don't have much else for this week. My mind is on that last test and the oncology appointment that follows. I have every indication that things are still clear, but it's impossible not to think about it. I am working with more speed on the latest Soldiers book and my Manga editing is coming along nicely. I'm actually being encouraged by my bosses at Digital Manga to blog about that experience. I'll be doing that starting next week.

I'm certain I'll have some tales to tell about the appointment Tuesday. Craig is my escort.

Stay tuned.

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