Friday, 13 November 2015

New Toy

So while I was at my conference in Madison I stopped by a little gallery and I just couldn't resist this little item by Michigan sculptor Scott Nelles.

There is a  rocket ship I may have to get too! ;-)

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Film and History Conference 2015 Madison

Here are a random assortment of images from the Film and History Conference in Madison this year (2015).

Here are a few panels I visited:

Of course we did our usual dinner at the Peruvian Restaurant Crandalls.

There was a book signing on Friday and everyone wanted to get pictures taken with Gaylyn Studlar.

Here's the Rowman Littlefiled book exhibit.


Saturday there was a Farmer's Market in Madison with lots of vegetables, artisan breads and goodies.

There was music, like this country band, complete with washboard player.

Asa an Autumn market there were many Fall vegetables featured: squashes, brussel sprouts and lots of tubers.

Lots of people were walking around with these bouquets of ornamental cabbage.

These are lavender cookies. They have a very unusual color.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Not Quite Home Beautiful!

Okay, so I finally got around to clearing out a lot of the extra stuff in the bedroom. When you are writing a book (or two) it is easy for papers and journals and books to start piling up everywhere, and alas the bedroom was no exception. In fact it was the epicenter. When books start taking up the shelves, and closets then the clothes have to go somewhere else and pretty soon I was slitherong between piles of notes for chapter three and not quite dirty clothes (you know, those ones that you'll wear one more time around the house, but you can't tomorrow because you have to go to the office..., well, maybe you don't  do that, yeah, maybe I have a problem).

Anyway it was getting crowded in there, so I finally moved everything to other rooms (thus cluttering up the rest of the house, but man, does it feel good to be in the bedroom! It feels so spacious and roomy and almost like House Beuatiful.

So I took some pictures and was astonished at how cluttered it looks in the pics.

 I guess it is all relative and a question of degree. Still for the moment I am breathing free in there. Now I just have to move the stuff in the living rooms and study to some other place. I wonder if I should buy a second house!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Fine Dining in Chicago at Moto (with Wine pairings)

For my big birthday this year, my sister took me out for some amazing Chicago dining. Of course I meant to blog this a while back when it happened, so now I have no idea what most of this food was anymore, but it was absolutely incredible!

We went to Moto one evening where the new chef Chris Anderson is from the North Carolina and inspired by his southern heritage. He worked at Alina for a while and studied at Auberge de l'Ill, a three-starred Michelin restaurant in France's Alsace region, so we were in for some spectacular dining.

The outside is unassuming. There is no big sign and even when you enter you aren't quite sure if you are in the right place. The Maitre de guided us to a table (which I of course promptly rejected because it was up against a wall and felt crowded to me. (You can see the table we didn't take in the picture below. ))

Our first course was oysters prepared in three ways. One raw, one steamed and one fried. They were accompanied by a variety of little appetisers, none of which spring to mind any more, but the oysters were fabulous and it was really tough to decide which was best. I loved the fried one and that may have been the best dish of the evening, but of course I might have been really hungry too and the first bite often tastes incomparably fantastic!

Unfortunately we were not allowed to use flash (understandably, as everyone there took pictures of their food and the evening would have been a jangle of nervy flash bulbs if we had been allowed to do so) but I'm sorry I wasted my finding out about this on one of the less colorful dishes. Still when I was trying to figure out what I liked best, the fried oyster kept springing to mind and rivalling the other things I was considering.

We decided to order the wine pairings. I had done this once before in Minneapolis at Sanctuary and although I find restaurants love to use white wines more than reds (I guess more delicate in nature for the most part and thus better complements for subtle food) I tend to like the red wines better these days, so I am never sure whether to do the pairings or not.

The silverware balanced on the slate block in the picture above and the knives always righted themselves and turned so the blade was perpendicular to the table - enchanting at first, but annoying after awhile!

The second dish was the most visually spectacular. It consisted of tiny little Joan MirĂ³-like entities and that little orange blob in the upper right middle was indeed the best thing I have ever eaten. Amazingly (to me anyway) it was a cauliflower with orange seasonings and it was absolutely amazing!

The dish was called Summer Forage, so it was difficult to remember what everything was, but it was the cauliflower that really stood out! The red underneath was beet foam. I'm not sure what the excitement about "foam" is, but it left me cold and we had several opportunities to experience it.

This dish was peas and again not my favorite, but presentation was lovely (much nicer than my blurry photos indicate.) Since I could not use flash, the rest of the images all bear that certain similarity. 

The next dish was my sister's favorite. It was several versions of okra from pickled to fried.  I found the fried okra to be exactly that, fried okra (and I like fried okra), but my sister loved it!

The foie and lobster that followed was quite good.

A smoked radish followed that was also yummy!

It was paired with a fermented Sake, a Nama called "DRunken Snapper" from Tokushima, and this was my absolute favorite pairing of the night. Who would have thought I would enjoy a radish so much!

...and then next we had a gree-tea (Macha) infused trout on grits dish which seemed to be a lot more machinery and bother than it was worth. They did the infusion for us right at the table. It felt very Frankenstein laboratorium-y.

It was served with Kentucky ham that was registered. (We got to take a look at our ham later in the kitchen.)

I liked the grit cakes better before the infusion was poured all over it and although the infusion was  quite nuanced and fine, it made the otherwise crispy grit cakes a bit soggy and I didn't need the additional flavor on top of the trout with roe topping.

Here is the trout before the infusion was added.

Moto's Facebook page has a lovely closeup! The trout is topped with blood orange infused roe and has a little seaweed bow tied around it. So beautiful.

 Here it is with the infusion.

The next was a mixed blessing.  The menu labeled it "el otero". The eggy thing in the middle was bland. The thing in front however was surprisingly good. It was, believe it or not, fried mayonnaise and it was to die for! (Even though it is embarrassing to admit that one of my favorite foods of the evening was fried mayonnaise!)

I was rather disappointed with the fried mushrooms. We had a chanterelle and two other kinds, but somehow they just didn't have much nuance at all. You tasted the batter and not too much else. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy them and all the food we had that night, it just means compared to prior dishes they were good rather than stellar.

 The pork belly was magnificent and certainly one of the tastiest things we had. (Not tastier than the cauliflower or the fried mayonnaise, though!)

Chicken and "dumplings" followed. As one reviewer on yelp noted, the dumplings were not like real dumplings but rather more like (boring imo) tater tots. That reviewer suggested going to China town nearby instead. The little onion on the side was quite adorable though!

I was very much looking forward to this dish - the duckotash. I thought it was quite good and it brought back memories of meals I ate as a child in the South (although without the duck!)

The beets came with another fantastic meat dish maybe Wagyu beef.

We ended the savory portion of the meal with cheeses and some incidental sweets.

Then came a series of desserts. I had been really excited about the up-coming pecan pie, but first we got a coconut and key lime mousse.


The best of the desserts was undoubtedly the cobbler which was served on a smoky bed of warm hickory wood chips. You can see the chef's southern origins in this idea and it worked quite well.


Here is a closer look.

This was followed by a sweet potato dessert that was not too exciting and then the pecan pie, which I guess was so disappointing, that I forgot to take a picture of it.

I stole this from the web, but I think that chocolated covered thing on the right was the pecan pie. (Can you believe it?!) The ice creamy stuff was better than the "pie."

There was nothing pie-like about the "pie." It was covered in chocolate and it was jelled, so very disappointing to someone who grew up with traditional pecan pie. The dish we got should be called something else. (Like choco-pecan jello delite).

What follows are a few blurry pictures of the restaurant. I think the wine had been working on me by then and it was dark in the restaurant so I couldn't get clear shot.


You might understand why when you see how many wines we got to taste (about 10 I think.)


At the end they presented us with a punched menu. This is an image I stole   procured from the internet. Mine also had my name and birthday wishes punched down below the list of dishes. I'm sure it is marking a very important place in a valuable book somewhere in my study at the moment and can not be disturbed.

I did find our list of wine pairings, though:

 We decided to go for a personal kitchen tour with the chef. We chatted with him quite a while and he was very kind and answered a myriad of questions.

Here was our registered and numbered Kentucky ham.

The kitchen was immaculately clean and the crew seemed happy and (amazingly) unstressed. 

Here you can see them preparing the mousse for the next day's meals.

We were happy, well-fed and certainly well-wined when we left and everything had that wonderful glow you feel on a special evening. 

We headed back to the Ivy Boutique hotel knowing there would be another special meal tomorrow.