Friday, March 25, 2011

Life and Risk

It's not like I haven't wanted to write lately, on the contrary, I've been wanting to. It's just that my mind has been on the move so much in the past week, I haven't had the mental capacity to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as it were.) But now things have calmed slightly (ever so slightly) and as a result I am more than comfortable to spend this Friday night relaxing at home with a good movie (Muppet Treasure Island, I said I'm an adult, I never said I was all the time.)


A good place to begin would be last Saturday, after waking up early to make sure I made it to the audition in Shadyside, I headed out for the day. After a decent audition (I didn't get cast, by the way, but I honestly wasn't expecting it) I realized it was a beautiful day, and wandered down to Oakland. Following a quick stop at an antique book store (books being right alongside food and women among my weaknesses), I went to a delicious lunch. The review of the restaurant will be posted later. After lunch, I then headed to Schenley Plaza, and after a quick nap on the green, fell into a combination philosophical debate/ musical jam session with a group from Ohio State. A beautiful day always brings out the adventurous side in people. In the late afternoon, a brief but thoroughly enjoyable rehearsal was then followed by an absolutely delightful cast gathering. For a cast of 6 (7 with the director), 6 bottles of wine and a bottle of whiskey led to a really fun, yet sociable night overall.


The next day being Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, I was really excited to participate. It's something I've been wanting to do for a long time. For those of you who don't know what happens at Holi, among the music and dancing, there is much throwing of colored powder and spraying of colored water. It's simple, joyous fun. After being completely covered in dye by the end of the day, and eating my fill of delicious Indian food, I ended up finishing the day by hanging out with my friends from Slackline Pittsburgh, and Food Not Bombs.


It was fortunate that the weekend was so great, as this week was full of important decisions that needed to be made, both personal and profession. (Invariably, it always seem as if the two are intertwined.) I hate to be extremely vague, but in this case I need to be until I can see where things start to land.


Until next time,


Andrew

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Remembering Western Travels

Today is a cold, dreary, incredibly rainy day, and honestly, I have yet to get out of my lounge pants and wander outside for my commute (which I need to do in about an hour and a half.) Until then, which I intend to postpone until the last second, I'm kind of puttering around the house, and being hungry (as I usually am) I found myself in the kitchen, looking through the pantry.


Days like this, I often remember former travels. Today's memory was spending a week out in Montana last year on the Marlboro Ranch with my father. Aside from having a great time, the weather was magnificent (unlike Pittsburgh at the moment.) But I digress.


Having settled down to obtain a light afternoon snack, I was surprised in a very pleasant way to find a crock of Hunter's Reserve spread (Elk and Roasted Garlic Cheddar) and a few of the summer sausage sticks remaining from Lancaster. All in all, they pair up pretty well together. While the spread isn't as elk-like as I would have liked, it paired well to add some extra meatiness to the summer sausage. Not bad for a snack.


The only other thing of note is going to be the celebration of Holi on the 20th. this Sunday. I'm looking forward to celebrating with a few friends over on Flagstaff Hill, over in Oakland. It's going to be fun.

Until next time,

Andrew

Monday, March 14, 2011

Culinary Frat Boy


Well, Monday, and the end of the long weekend has come around. Saturday was when Pittsburgh celebrates its version of St. Patrick's Day. More or less, due to the historically large Irish population of Pittsburgh, St. Patrick's Day has more or less evolved into the Pittsburgh version of Mardi Gras, a time when the alcohol flows freely, inhibitions are lowered, and for a single day, everyone is Irish, whether they really are or not.
The day began quite early in the morning, waking up at 7 am (an obscene hour) and heading over to my friend's house for Kegs and Eggs. (A bastardized version of the Irish breakfast)The day then stretched on through most of the city, and until the wee hours of the morning. Before you ask, yes, there are pictures. And no, if I have my way, they will never see the light of day. (Intoxicated women+Man in Kilt= You can guess what happened.) Anyway, let's just say that the word "crazy" doesn't quite begin to cover it.
The only remotely "culinary" thing of note would be the annual re-appearance of green beer. Now, this isn't actually notable, but it's tradition, so we knocked back a few. Personally, I don't really get it. As you can tell, I'm a bit of an ingredient snob, so the fact that the beer of choice was Miller Lite, I was disappointed. Lite beer is evil, if you're going to drink beer, endure the few extra calories, and enjoy the experience, rather than deaden your palate. The other thing is the amount of green coloring in the beer. If you insist on drinking it, it should have an emerald hue, and you really, really should not drink a beer that has so much coloration you can taste it.

Sunday, after waking up feeling surprisingly good, I had a full day at the theater. Unfortunately in that case, that means delicious (not really), fattening (most certainly) fast food. I refuse to discuss the fine points of fast food, if only for the simple fact that THERE ARE NONE.

Finally, today. Honestly, today was a day where after spacing out all day long, I realized that I had managed to completely forget about actually eating. So, I headed to the kitchen to see what I could whip up. Granted, I also found not much in the way of raw materials, but I did find eggs, nacho cheese, and a spiral sliced ham. This, by the way, is where I realized that I am not an Iron Chef. I don't do well with secret ingredients. After making a basic scramble of eggs, adding the ham and cheese. I was disappointed. Technique wise, they were good. Nice, fluffy, not to wet or dry, and plenty of fillings and seasoning. There was just something about them, and I still can't place my finger on it, that I was really disappointed with.

After a weekend of bad food, I decided I might as well throw in the towel and try again tomorrow. So, with fast feet and an empty stomach, I headed to Little Caesars Pizza down the street to pick up a five dollar pizza. The thing about Little Caesars is that it isn't that good. But, it's pizza. At the end of the day, at least it fills you up.

So, I guess my lesson from this weekend is that I should have listened to Miguel de Cervantes, when he wrote "La mejor salsa del mundo es la hambre."
Until the next time,
Andrew

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New York City, Round 2

My apologies for not writing from the "field" as it were, but I've only recently recovered from the day trip to New York. I ended up there for the day to audition, and as usual, the randomness of the day did not disappoint.

To start off with, a night bus is always an...interesting place to meet some new people. Usually, it's my preferred method of travel, but due to the lateness of the hour, I usually prefer to pop a sleeping pill or two, pass out, and wake up in my destination, fully rested. Unfortunately, or in this case, fortunately, the fates conspired a bit by having the bus packed to the gills, my own forgetfulness forgeting my medication, so I was wide awake.

I ended up next to Nicole, a 22 year old transgender female, up to NYC for a little vacation after ending her two and a half year old long distance relationship. It's funny how the lateness of the hour and close physical confines inspires a breaking down of borders between strangers. I also met Ashley this trip, an actor also heading up to audition for a show.


Open 24 Hours

After arriving early (ridiculously early, I think) we decided to grab breakfast together at the Tick Tock Dinner, a great little place on 34th and 8th. The big thing to remember about working, and eating as an actor is that each person has their own unique pre-audition rituals. Generally, most actors avoid dairy, and of course, since appearance is so important, we watch our weight. Aside from that, everyone is different. Since she is predominately a dancer, Ashley went with a basic fruit and eggs, while since I do mostly physical fight work and Shakespeare, I prefer to load up on protein. That's why I was thrilled when I saw the Protein Breakfast available, I had to get it. After ordering, an entire chicken breast, and a delicious egg white omelet with tomatoes, asparagus, and mushrooms. Fortunately, I was able to polish it off all the way (after splitting it three ways.) The vegetables were perfectly done, the asparagus with a fresh crisp taste, and the mushrooms, to die for. I found my new traditional NYC breakfast.



A lot of breakfast

With that lump in my stomach, I headed off to my audition. It went well, and I made the callbacks. Suddenly having several hours to myself in the middle of Manhattan, I decided to be an accidental tourist and actually go see the Empire State Building. It's a cool building (I'm a sucker for Art Deco architecture) but, it's a tourist destination, so I wasn't exactly enthralled.


Hopefully, the closest I'll come to being a tourist

Much more interesting to me was the pizza. New York is known all over as a pizza pilgrimage destination (although Chicago might have something to say about that) so I had to see what it was all about. I landed at NY Pizza Supreme, and I now know what people are talking about with pizza. It's probably the best I've ever had. Based off their recommendation, I went for something different, the Upside Down Pie. It's exactly what it says it is, the pizza built upside down, with the cheese on the bottom and the sauce on top. The advantage is that the cheese insulates the crust from the sauce, so it's crispy and chewy all at the same time.


The Upside-Down

It was so delicious, I had to go for one more slice. A true measurement of a pizza place is how they handle a Margherita. It's simplicity, with just mozzarella, basil, and tomato sauce, has been the downfall of more than one pizza joint. This is not the case, however, and NYPS proves that it's all about the ingredients. The perfectly crispy crust (try saying that three times fast) is complemented by the house-made mozzarella, (you can't get fresher than just made) and the basil was like a kick to the face with a basil foot, but in a really good way.

As fresh as it gets.

After the audition, a few of us (Steve and Ally) decided to celebrate and grab a beer at the Smiling Moose। Granted, I ended up with cider (which is manly in its own way) and some poutine (Ally's Canadian, so that's why we had to get an order.) As usual, and after the hilarity of Steve and myself trying to teach Ally to play pool (neither of us are very good to begin with, so a perfect example of the blind leading the blind.) We parted our separate ways, hopefully to meet again (if we get cast) and went back to our separate lives. That's one of the reasons I love to travel, even when you're in a strange city, you're never actually alone.

Until next time,

Andrew

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mmmm...local.

There is something very intriguing about pairing food and churches. Something about the two just seems to go together. Perhaps it's the reversal of the aphorism "Man shall not live on bread alone" to "Man shall not live on faith alone." Then again, it might be because there is something rather satisfying in feeding someone spiritually and physically at the same time. Regardless, I have learned over the course of my travels to detour towards various religious houses when in search of food, as one is very rarely disappointed.

Hot Dog salvation may be found through this door.

So, with an open mind and an empty stomach, I made my way through Downtown Pittsburgh to Franktuary, a small gourmet hot dog shop in the back of the Trinity Cathedral. Now, for the confession, I've known about the place for years, and indeed, I've eaten there maybe twice before. That was also a long time before I actually started caring about what I eat, so I decided to give it another try.

First of all, the staff at Franktuary are some of the nicest people you will meet in a restaurant staff. Even when I was daunted at the menu, in the middle of lunch hour (always a precarious position to be in) the staff took the time to make the recommendations (which naturally I followed) and were warm and friendly the whole time.

Now for the food itself, I ended up with a basic, (somewhat) well balanced meal of the hot dog, with a side, and a drink. A little on the pricey side, but the food is good enough to deserve it, and a portion of the proceeds go to charity.


A well-balanced (?) meal.

First of all, for the dog itself, I ordered the locavore Texan hot dog. Up until this point, I was completely unfamiliar with Locavore culture. The idea of eating predominately locally made food appeals to me greatly, as I believe one should always eat like a local. The hot dog itself is locally made, organic (which means no nitrates) and made with grass fed beef. Arguably, this is the best hot dog I've ever had. It gains massive points for both flavor and texture. Go to Franktuary and get one immediately, you will not be disappointed.

What makes a hot dog special however, are the toppings. In the case of the Texan, it comes topped with chili, shredded cheese, and jalapeno slices. I have to admit, that even when the bun's structural integrity was compromised (the ONLY shortcoming) I used the bun and a spoon to eat the remainder of the chili after consuming the hot dog, it is that good. I also admit (regretfully) that while it does include beans (something I consider chili heresy)...it absolutely blows my chili out of the water in terms of taste. I just need to find a way to steal the recipe now...

For my side, I followed the recommendation, which led to a side of vegetarian baked beans. Full of flavor, they had a great texture and consistency. One of the other notes is the onion, which really punched through the sweetness to add a unique flavor.

The only misstep in the whole equation was the drink. Having decided to try the Natrona Bottling Company's "Jamaica's Finest Ginger Beer", I was somewhat let down. It's extremely...stimulating, I will give it that. That being said, I've never had a drink spicy enough to burn my throat a bit. It might make a great mixer, but I can't say I recommend it straight.

So, all in all, get to Franktuary, choose to eat locally, and you will be rewarded. Until next time, stay hungry, my friends.