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Friday, April 30, 2010

Independence, MO - Road Trip!

The Husband and I headed south last weekend for a fun filled adventure in Independence, MO. What took us to Independence you ask?

The MN Twins played the KC Royals!



This was the highlight of the trip. The Husband saw them first at the NEW Target Field, then we went south and saw them again. I was amazed at how many Minnesotans made the trip, but from the Twin Cities it's only a 6 hour drive (10 hours for us from Duluth).





It was a good game - windy, cool, rainy, 12 innings. Yes, this is what we call a good game. Though I get very annoyed at extra innings (I was also cold by the 8th) and persuaded the Husband to take us to a sports bar to watch the end of the game.

Saturday we visited the Harry S. Truman presidential museum, the Vail Mansion, and went to the game.



Sunday we visited the Overland Park Arboretum, walked around historic downtown Independence, and toured the Briggs-Waggoner Mansion. The Briggs-Waggoner Mansion was right next to the beginning of the Santa Fe Wagon Trail.

Overland Park Arboretum

The Briggs-Waggoner Mansion

No mention of the food? Nope. It was seriously unremarkable. We hit a pizza place that had some of the blandest pizza I've every had and a KC BBQ place which was noted in one of my cooking magazines that left us underwhelmed. On our return drive home we hit the Twin Cities right at dinner time and the Husband wanted good BBQ so we went to our favorite place - Market Barbecue. Seriously, we drove from Kansas City to Mpls to have good BBQ. We've been going here for 20 years. If you're in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis specifically) this is hands down the best BBQ in the area.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Recipe Review from April - Poached Salmon

You might have noticed (or maybe not) my recipe reviews have seriously dropped off. Simply put, it's been a crazy wild month. Have I mentioned that before? I forget. It's been a crazy wild month.

Since the Husband returned from Kuwait at the beginning of the month, and he doesn't start classes until next week, I decided to hand over supper duty to him. I've just been too busy and decided this would be easier on me. I'd buy the groceries, he does suppers.

It also means minimal to no recipe reviews - he's happily reviewing past favorites (Pumpkin Vanilla Soup, fish on the grill, venison on the grill, etc). But, he made one that was just outstanding and warranted a posting: Poached Salmon.

Now, this isn't so much a recipe as it is a technique and one that we hadn't employed before. It comes from Michael Ruhlman's blog: Poached Salmon Lunch; a great site for techniques and ideas.

This may be my new favorite way to have fish, other than grilled. We used a Lake Superior salmon (I think that's what I bought). It comes out tender, flavorful, light. It is great just out of the oven or chilled and eaten later or in a salad the next day. I like the thought of making extra and then turning it into a cold salmon salad. Two meals out of one! Try it, you won't be disappointed.

If you're just interested in just the technique Michael posts this:

How To Poach Salmon:

Poaching salmon is perhaps the easiest way to cook this fish if you’re fish challenged but love salmon. You can use the same “ouch-hot” method Chef Pardus demonstrated in this video: How To Poach Shrimp. Simply bring water to the point that it’s too hot to touch but not boiling; if you have an instant read thermometer, this will be about 160 to 180 degrees F. (70 to 80 degrees C.), and lower your salmon into the water (it should be completely submerged). Remove it with a slotted spatula when it’s done, usually about 7 to 10 minutes. If you like rare or medium-rare salmon, it should have plenty of give; if you like it fully cooked through, remove it when it’s firm. If you’re uncertain, delicately survey a part of the interior with a pairing knife. The most precise way of gauging doneness is with an instant read thermometer. For rare it should read about 120 degrees F. (50 degrees C.), for medium 130 degrees F. (54 degress C.), and for fully cooked, 140 degrees F. (60 degrees C.). If I’m serving it immediately, I prefer it rare to medium rare; if I’m serving it cold, I prefer it fully cooked.

To enhance the flavor (and I highly recommend this), turn your water into what’s called a court bouillon, French for quick stock. Add to your water sliced onion, a couple bay leaves, enough salt that the water tastes seasoned (1/2 to 1 teaspoon, or .25 ounces per quart of liquid), a cup of white wine and/or the juice of 2 lemons for every quart of water, and any other aromatics you may want, bring it to a simmer, then turn down the heat so that it remains hot but is no longer simmering, and poach the salmon as desired.

If you’re serving it cold, remove the salmon from the water to a plate lined with a paper towel, cover it with a cool damp paper towel and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

District 9


I missed this one when it was in the theaters (actually, with the exception of Avatar, I miss most of them) and it finally made its way to the top of my Neflix list.

If you are a scifi fan, this is worth watching. First half of the movie blurs the lines between feeling like a documentary covering the eviction of the aliens from a containment camp called "District 9" and a movie. The shift to a movie is subtly done and unless you are paying attention, you won't really notice it. We follow Wikus, assigned the impossible and stupid task of gathering the "prawns" signatures to allow the "legal" deportation of the aliens to an alternative camp away from Johannesburg.

From the beginning, things go terribly wrong and Wikus finds himself unexpectedly mutating into one of the Prawns. Wikus goes from being a somewhat respected bureaucrat to a man on the run. The military and the scientists want nothing more than to get a hold of his DNA, for it is only a living Prawn that can operate the alien technology. And Wikus is now both man and alien offering the military a huge advantage in the fight against the aliens.

Through Wikus's plight and flight we get a look at the Prawns themselves and find that they are no more happy to be stuck in the horrid conditions than the population of Johannesburg is to have them there. Encounters between humans and aliens invariably ends up being bloody.

This is not a movie for the squeamish. Significant dismemberment, exploding bodies, rendering of limbs and blood splatting everywhere. Not to overlook one man turning into a alien. Oddly it didn't bother me (unlike Gladiator or Braveheart - ugh). The CGI effects enhanced the difference between aliens and humans without being overblown.

Again, if you like science fiction or action style films, I recommend this film.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Golden Globe by John Varley


This is Aprils bookgroup selection. We have read by Varley: Steel Beach, Titan and now The Golden Globe.

From Goodreads (because I despise retyping synopsis): Sparky Valentine is a former child star turned down-on-his-luck thespian who's just reached the grand old age of 100. Not that you could tell by looking at the old ham, who for some reason never seems to age--or stay out of trouble. Sparky's in the midst of a whirlwind theatrical tour designed to bring a bit of culture to the frozen desolation of the outer solar system when bad luck strikes in the form of a gumshoe hot on his tail. Sparky decides to skip the outer burgs for the more hospitable environs of Pluto, but things only get worse when he runs afoul of the notoriously unforgiving Charonese Mafia. As he's making his getaway, he learns something astonishing. The famous director Kaspara Polichinelli of Luna is planning a performance of King Lear, and he's short a lead to take on the title role. Sparky wires Polichinelli that he's interested, and Polichinelli tells him the part is his. Now all Sparky has to do is find a way to scrape together enough cash to get to Luna before the play starts while avoiding a seemingly unstoppable (and unkillable) Charonese hitman. --Craig E. Engler

I have mixed feelings about this book. I found the storyline intriguing, but the pages and pages of extraneous exposition incredibly dull and irrelevant to the story. For one example, I really didn't care how a outpost on the planet Oberon or was it the planet Oberon? was made and gravity enhanced. There were other places similar to this were it seemed the "science" was just rather stuck in. While I like science in science fiction, in this case it was distracting. This 500 page book would have been outstanding at 400 pages with a bit of editing.

However, it was the ending that that made the story for me. I suspected part of it earlier in the book, and it was this curiosity that kept me going till to the final pages. If you don't mind skipping bits, or if science is your thing, I recommend this book.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Michael Buble Concert!



I GOT TO GO!! I GOT TO GO!!

My sister got tickets for Christmas and she invited ME!! Wheee!!!

Concert was excellent. It was at the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul, on a beautiful spring evening. All 13,000 people must have thought the same thing as there was almost NO place to eat in the Seven Corners area. We're talking lines of 30+ people at every single restaurant and longer at Cosettas. We tried walking down to the Glockenspeil, but that proved farther than we anticipated and as we had already paid an obnoxious amount to park, we weren't driving. We ended up at some sports bar, staking out a place in the door way and glaring at anyone who tried to cut in front of us. Luckily, an hour before the concert a table opened up, we got our food in 20 minutes and still had lots of time to walk to the Excel.

Naturally 7 was the opening act. Wow. These guys were amazing. High energy, great sound, interacted with the audience. They performed for about 45 minutes - which was perfect for an opening act. Any longer and I would have gotten antsy.

Buble's entry was reminiscent of the Sorcerers Apprentice - orchestra, director bigger than life, and kapow! Waaayy cool. He did a nice mix of slow and fast songs, talked to the audience, at one point was IN the audience doing a song with Naturally 7. The backdrop to the stage was uber cool - a moving 5 panel plasma TV or some such that would move apart and show separate images or come together and show one large image. Very intriguing.

Buble did one encore which I very much appreciated. Can't stand groups that do two or three. When the encore was done (the curtain had fallen) it was just Buble on stage and he sang without the mike! In an arena of 13,000 people! We were in the back, to the left of center and we could hear him! Amazing. I hope he doesn't blow out his vocal cords doing that.

If Michael Buble ever does a show in Vegas, I am SO there!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Restarant Review: Surabhi

Surabhi Indian Cuisine is located in Bloomington, MN (Twin Cities) at 517 West 98th Street. It's in a small strip mall which was initially a bit of an adventure to find. My sister-in-law recommended the place and spoke highly of the fact that it represented Southern Indian food.

So it was that my friend and I made our annual pilgrimage to Minicon over Easter weekend (a local scifi convention) and we like to start the weekend with lunch on Fridays at a new place. We've done Indian, Afghan, Chinese, American...at least that's what I can remember over 15 years of attending.

First hint that it might be good - a huge party of Indians had just departed, like twenty guys. Inside, half the patrons were Indians. If these folks are eating here, they must be on to something.

Second hint, it was fairly busy for 1:30 in the afternoon. If a buffet is dead by 1:00, there might be concerns. But no, people were still coming in.

I don't recall if they had an option of ordering off the menu, but we went right for the buffet. An acceptable selection of options - both for carnivores and vegetarians. I was delighted they had my favorite Saag Paneer/Palak Paneer (creamed spinach with homemade cheese cubes. Yes. I'm weird.). Have to have the naan, and the basmati rice, and the little donut holes in syrup...now I'm full. I did try something that looked like a little white flying saucer with coconut milk but it really didn't grab my fancy.

I'm not sure anything more that pop and water were an option for drinks. Usually I order a Mango Lassi or Darjeeling tea, but nary a tea cup to be seen.

The decor is not much to get excited about; it was a bit dowdy. The signs over the buffet to take as much food as you wanted, but to please not waste was on the odd side. I'd go next door to Bakers Square for pie and tea if I wanted to linger and chat with my dining companion.

Still. Recommended. Buffet - $10.00.

Friday, April 9, 2010

2010 Hugo Nominees



These were announced Easter weekend, but I kept forgetting to come and post them. The voting will take place about July and the results will be revealed at Worldcon in Australia in August. I won't be going to Australia.

However, the line-up for future Worldcon conventions is looking like:
Reno 2011
Chicago 2012
San Antonio 2013

Is that an awesome list or what? Chicago and San Antonio are still tentative pending any other bids or failure to secure necessary contracts. Chicago was actually my first Worldcon and still one of the best. Though Boston was a heck of a lot of fun too. And Denver. And Montreal. Oh heck. They were all good in their own way.

Anyway, I digress. The full list of 2010 Hugo Nominees can be viewed here. Here's the selections I concern myself with:

Best Novel
- Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor)
- The City & The City, China MiƩville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK)
- Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)
- Palimpsest, Catherynne M. Valente (Bantam Spectra)
- Wake, Robert J. Sawyer (Ace; Penguin; Gollancz; Analog)
- The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)

Best Novella
- "Act One", Nancy Kress (Asimov's 3/09)
- The God Engines, John Scalzi (Subterranean)
- "Palimpsest", Charles Stross (Wireless)
- Shambling Towards Hiroshima, James Morrow (Tachyon)
- "Vishnu at the Cat Circus", Ian McDonald (Cyberabad Days)
- The Women of Nell Gwynne's, Kage Baker (Subterranean)

Best Novelette
- "Eros, Philia, Agape", Rachel Swirsky (Tor.com 3/09)
- The Island", Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2)
- "It Takes Two", Nicola Griffith (Eclipse Three)
- "One of Our Bastards is Missing", Paul Cornell (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction: Volume Three)
- "Overtime", Charles Stross (Tor.com 12/09)
- "Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast", Eugie Foster (Interzone 2/09)

Best Short Story
- "The Bride of Frankenstein", Mike Resnick (Asimov's 12/09)
- "Bridesicle", Will McIntosh (Asimov's 1/09)
- "The Moment", Lawrence M. Schoen (Footprints)
- "Non-Zero Probabilities", N.K. Jemisin (Clarkesworld 9/09)
- "Spar", Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld 10/09)


Interesting that not so many of the novellas/short stories are from Azimov's or Analog this year. Hopefully I can find most of the novels at the library. Come back in August and see who won!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Minicon 45

Minicon is a local (ie, Minneapolis/St. Paul local) science fiction convention that I've been attending for about 16 years with Gail (Disorganized As Usual). It's changed a lot in that time frame. The first 5 years it was this HUGE 3,000 person party with a masquerade (a costume contest), people dressing up, parties, panels, and much weirdness. Then The Big Change occurred, the location changed and the focus returned to writing and books. The last 5 years it's been back in Bloomington, with about 400 attendees talking science, fantasy and fiction.

This was a pretty good year. The GoH was Brandon Sanderson, who will be finishing Robert Jordans Wheel of Time series. I stopped reading this series at about book five as there was no end in sight. I think book twelve is where things come to a close. The artist GoH was Don Dos Santos. Absolutely fascinating speaker and artist. He still works in oil paints and has not gone completely over to all computerized work. I spent my time bouncing between panels with these two on them as they were very engaging speakers.

The panels I attended were:
Dos Santos Slide Show - Artist GoH presented a history of his art and life.

Solar Eclipse in China 2009 - Full eclipse lasting 6 minutes as seen only from China. They event was rained out and the speaker didn't have much to say.

Brandon Sanderson talks about Writing - decent.

New Images of Fantasy - Dos Santos gave a slide show of up and coming fantasy artists. Pretty cool looking at lots of pretty pictures.

GoH Interview - Funny. Engaging. Interesting.

Artist GoH Interview - Intimate. Engaging. Interesting. Sunday morning panels are usually pretty small so we all sat in a circle.


Not much else to add, other than I picked up four used Joe Haldeman books for $6.00. Way cool.

Next year's GoH will be Charles Stross. He's a fairly engaging speaker too - I've sat in on panels he's been on at a couple Worldcons. Dates for Minicon 46 are April 22-23. Register now to get the earlybird price!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Restaurant Review: Hanabi, Duluth, MN

Dudes. I am so totally discombobulated from these past two weeks I don’t know if I’m coming or going. Mondays are supposed to be my recipe review day but I honestly can’t remember the last new recipe I made. Why? You might inquire? Well, the Husband came back unexpectedly from Kuwait due to the passing of his mother. In between hospital visits, I made a run to the Cities for a Michael Buble concert (to be reviewed shortly) and my yearly science fiction convention (also to be reviewed shortly). I’ve been knitting mittens like a fiend (easy to do while waiting at the hospital) and reading.

But first, how about a restaurant review? It’s been a while since I’ve posted about good places to eat.

Hanabi, Duluth, MN

Japanese/Sushi
Menu

Hanabi’s opened just a couple months ago to good reviews. Owned and operated by some folks from New York who decided the Mpls/St. Paul sushi scene was saturated, they chose Duluth. I am so glad they did! A friend and I met here for lunch a while back - lucky me! - it’s within walking distance of my office. 11:30 was the appointed meeting hour and we were seated immediately. By noon, the place was comfortably full.

Beautiful mahogany woodwork is softly light with overhead lighting. A liquor bar is on the end closest to the street, complete with a monster plasma TV. Detraction IMO. The sushi bar is along the brick wall toward the back and in between are the tables and booths. I thought the place was warm if not a bit austere. Some modern art on the walls would have spruced up the plain green walls and added just a splash of color.

My friend and I each ordered green tea (a must in my opinion if eating sushi) and miso soup ($2.50/bowl). Much to my surprise it was yellow miso, not brown as I am accustomed to. Much more mild. I think I still prefer the brown.
We then shared:

Hanabi roll ($15) Shrimp tempura roll topped with fresh scallop, king crab meat and three different kinds of caviar. Seriously, this was heaven on a plate.

Uni ($8) two pieces comprised of rice wrapped in seaweed, topped with sea urchin and a quail egg. Not for everyone.

Kampyo roll ($4) cooked sweet squash. A nice simple sushi roll to counter the complex flavors above.

Prices are comparable to what I would find in the Cities (comparing to Midori’s Floating World, Origami, Tampopo, Kigigaua’s, and Fugi Ya’s). A bit pricey for a Duluth lunch - $42.00 total when all was said and done.

Excellent flavors and presentation; service was so so (waitress seemed to be new or not very experienced yet), good atmosphere. Reservations aren’t necessary for lunch, but will need them on Friday and Saturday nights.