Monday, March 7, 2011

Cocktail: Sour Marxist

A synthesis of Marxist ideologies:

This week's cocktail was inspired by the soda xi muoi, or salty plum soda, I had at my neighbourhood Vietnamese cafe recently. I love the way the soda combines sweet, sour, salty, and bubbly. But I wanted to see if I could make it utterly intoxication by making it... utterly intoxicating. Taking my cue from the mojito, which with its mint flavor and other ideological affinities seemed a natural match, I decided to mix in a little rum and mint. I was very pleased with the results.

First, I experimented on the soda xi muoi side by soaking in soda water three different types of dried plums I picked up at 99 Ranch market. Pictured below, they are, left to right, salty, preserved, and red:

All were salty, sour, and sweet. The red plums (right) imbued the strongest flavor and dyed the water pinkish, while the salted plums (left) were the saltiest. I'd recommend either for the cocktail. The preserved plums (center) weren't bad. I wouldn't recommend for the drink, but they make great treats to idly suck on as you tinker.

Once that was settled, I knocked out a few trial-size mojitos until I found a recipe with which I was satisfied. From there it was a pretty straightforward synthesis of ingredients. As is my wont, I measured out the ingredients, together with a couple ice cubes, into a tumbler. I shook well, in order to release the flavor of the plums and mint, then strained into a cocktail glass.

The red plum recipe (the "pinko" version with plum sake in lieu of vodka), pictured below, gave the spirit a bit more fruit and blush. But I think I liked the slightly drier character of the straight salted plum, pictured above.

I figure there's plenty of room for further experimentation and I would like to try versions substituting a little ginger ale for the soda water as well as one that uses champagne for the second alcohol.

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cocktail: Purple Cloud

First the recipe (with some variations):

This was an effort to recreate the eco-tini I had had at the Grand Californian lounge over the holidays. The eco-tini uses VeeV liqueur, which is açaí infused, as its primary spirit. When I tried to find this at Whole Foods, I was surprised to learn that they do not carry it, perhaps because, the employee I spoke to explained, it contains additives or impurities inconsistent with Whole Foods' organic policy.

Being that I was at Whole Foods when I hit this unforeseen obstacle, I figured I'd just track down some açaí berry juice or oil or extract or something, and handle the "infusion" myself. I found the juice aisle and after scanning the shelves for a couple minutes, I found it! In the lower right-hand corner of the aisle. An 8 oz bottle of pure açaí juice: $30!

That was definitely outside my budget, given the fact I wasn't even sure how it tasted in its pure form (I entertained terrors of raw cranberries). But I was still at Whole Foods. So my instincts told me that somewhere in this magnificent emporium I should be able to find a naturally sweetened, affordably priced, single-serving size of açaí juice drink. Sure enough, over in the refrigerated drinks aisle, I found the Sambazon juice.

The Sambazon product has the added benefit of using agave nectar as its sweetener, which allow me to put back the little bottle of agave nectar I had picked up over in the honey section and save $12.

I also bought an organic ginger drink. But I abandoned that in early trials for the Reed's Ginger Beer, which adds a little more zing.

The half-and-half was the final touch. The cocktail is not bad without it. But it has a muddy purple color (the eco-tini is cloudy clear) and has no linger in the mouth. The half-and-half even out the coloring (giving it the lighter color of cotton candy) and provides it more (I'm going to attempt to coin a new food-snob expression here, forgive me) "legacy on the palate."

All in all, a happy success.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Quinoa Recipe

(As emailed in response to an inquiry from a co-worker):

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Scene in Corporate America

Breakroom at work yesterday afternoon. Fox News on the plasma screen television. Talking head on Fox News bloviating about the Ground Zero Mosque.

Colleague: I don't see why they can't just move it somewhere else.

Me: Before I would say that there should be no mosque in lower Manhattan, I'd have to accept that all of Islam and every Muslim was complicit in the 9/11 attacks. I'd also have to be convinced that opponents of the mosque were not just political opportunists trying to exploit the rabble.

Colleague: Yeah, why can't they just move it?

Me: :S

Monday, August 16, 2010

KCRW Membership Renewed

Finally prodded by membership drive to renew membership that had lapsed, sort of, at the beginning of the year.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Electric Universe

For some weird reason, I was getting referrals from this Brazilian web page:

Here's a translation of text from the page:

The book Electric Universe by David Bodanis, is for those people who see take home as a kind of magical element. He tells the strange story of this amazing thing we call electricity in a text easy to read. In the narrative is up bizarre stories such as batteries in the language, the healing of homosexuality, and passion of a deaf besides many metaphors that can surprise you.

Believe me, even if I read Portuguese, this would not be on my reading list.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Verizon Bait-and-Wait

Update: I received my phone in early June, before the second estimated arrival date, but after the first. I am very happy with the phone, satisfied with the service.

To start: I have a Verizon account. I inherited it from my previous job. And I want a Google phone (that is, an Android phone.)

Originally, I wanted the Nexus One, Google's own phone. So I waited weeks while rumors came and went of an imminent release of the phone through Verizon. Finally, after many false reports, Verizon announced not the Nexus One, but the HTC Incredible. On the website where Google had been promoting the forthcoming release, Google called the Incredible a close cousin to the Nexus One and encouraged everyone to go out and buy that.

I wasn't thrilled about the change in plans. But after reading some reviews of the Incredible, which generally compared it favorably to the Nexus One, I started to reconsider. A couple weeks ago I dropped by a Verizon store to check it out in person and price out the plans. The store rep who helped me was very enthusiastic about it. And playing with it, I was sold. The salesman also mentioned the 2-for-1 deal with the Droid. Buy a Motorola Droid, also a very nice phone, get an Incredible virtually for free (with a second account.) I decided to think this over.

After a week, I decided I didn't really have need for a second account, so I returned to a Verizon store, ready to sign two years of my life away on a new contract. It was only then that I discovered that the Incredible was not in stock in any stores in North America. It had not been in stock since the day it was released. (I wondered why the salesman I had talked to the week didn't put up more resistance when I told him I wanted to think it over.) The store rep, seeing I was serious about it, now recommended I put one on order. Since he couldn't provide any timetable for its delivery, I declined.

In the course of reviewing my current phone plan, I realized I was paying for more minutes than I really needed. So I decided I would call Verizon's customer support, downgrade my plan until I moved over to a smart phone, and perhaps order the phone then, depending on the wait. If the backorder was too long, I'd look into the Nexus One on T-Mobile or perhaps the new 4G phone coming out from Sprint in a couple weeks about which a friend at work waxes poetical.

I called last Sunday. I explained to the Verizon representative who took my call why I was calling: downgrade, maybe order. Before she downgraded my plan, she offered to check their available stock of Incredibles in her system and discovered that they had them in stock, ready to ship. I could have one by Wednesday! I was thrilled. So I put off plans to downgrade my plan and instead plunked down $350 and upgraded my plan to include free texting. I got a little nervous when, in reviewing my order, she referred to my phone as the Droid Eris instead of the Incredible. But I double and then triple-checked the phone model and the delivery date and started counting down the hours until my phone arrived.

Which was supposed to be yesterday. But, given my whole experience thus far, I had an uneasy feeling about this. So I phoned Verizon in the morning from work to check on the status of my order. When the woman who took my call said she couldn't find a tracking number, I knew that this was not good. When she told me the phone in fact wouldn't be shipped until June 9th, I was pissed.

Pissed for a number of reasons:

1. While I wouldn't say the first woman I talked to lied to me, either she misinterpreted the information listed in her system or the system lied to her. Either way, it's a fail.

2. The misrepresentation of the delivery date puts me in a conspiratorial frame of mind because that's right around the time the Sprint phone is released. If I had known I was waiting that long, I would have through more seriously about getting that. At the very least, I would have taken a few more days to mull over my options with the Droid Buy-1-Get-1 free offer.

3. The support rep who took my call was apologetic and did everything she could to confirm what she told me was accurate, but Verizon offered no concession. A freebie pack of accessories would have gone a long way in demonstrating real contrition and helped ease the ever-present sense that Verizon is just out to gouge me for every dime it can.

So that's where it stands at present. I downgraded my plan and readjusted my anticipation. Like an idiot, I had to tell everyone who asking about my phone (all those smug iPhone owners) that, yes, as I had feared, the promise was too good to be true. I'd be getting my phone some time after June 9th. If then.

I told the rep I'd check back before June 9 and if delivery was pushed back again, I was cancelling my order and dropping my account, even though by that time it would surely mean more waiting and more headaches as I switched to another provider, where I'm sure a whole new world of pain awaits me. Ma Bell is dead. But it's still hard not to hate the phone company.