Recreating an engagement

Lisa and I were engaged seven years ago yesterday. It was a romantic Valentine’s Day engagement, with all the foreknowledge and planning that phrase implies. Neither party was surprised by timing or question.

What was surprising, given our joint culinary abilities, was how bad the meal was. We cooked in Lisa’s one bedroom apartment, which had a teacup-sized galley kitchen that was quite big enough for the meal we wanted to make. The meal was typically simple in scope, elaborate in details: duck breasts with blackberry sauce, angel food cake with orange glaze; vegetables that have been forgotten; and white wine with appetizers, Châteauneuf-du-Pape with the duck, and champagne with dessert.

Or that was the plan. The catch? Several. The angel food cake took a long time to assemble from scratch and there wasn’t enough room in the kitchenette to make the duck. So we didn’t start the duck until after 9 pm. The next catch was the provenance of the duck: it was a gift game duck from my uncle. I removed the breasts easily enough, but cooking it proved another challenge. I found the meat tough after the initial searing and pancooking and decided to try to braise it to soften it. Forty minutes cooking in liquid later, it was still like shoe leather. In fact, we couldn’t cut it with a steak knife. But we could drink wine, and did, and so the proposal happened and the disaster of the rest of the meal was almost forgotten.

This year, on the seventh anniversary, we decided to try the recipes again. Yesterday. This time the duck was farm-raised, and that made all the difference. I could have reduced the sauce longer, but what the heck. And substitute a sparkling moscato for the champagne, and we had a great time.

The keiretsu in full effect

The keiretsu has been a little quiet the past few months. Now with Esta’s blog active again it comes roaring back. Evidence:

  • In Esta’s latest post, she reclaims the b-word for all her sistahs and notes the inherent sexism in curses: “If you call a woman who’s just out-and-out mean ‘bitch,’ why not call mean men ‘bitch’ as well? Or why not call a mean woman ‘asshole’?”
  • George finds an Italian neighborhood place in North Beach which accomplishes the miracle of “good eats at reasonable prices” in the most expensive city on the West Coast.
  • Craig is hooked on politics, and it’s not my fault: “Why don’t I just retype each wonkette entry into my blog?”
  • And Greg has the final word: “This wave of popularity Kerry keeps riding reminds me of a pyramid scheme…I don’t hear a message coming from the Kerry camp; I just hear pleasant, but meaningless, slogans. Pardon my saying so, but we can do better than that.”

QTN™: Kleinbrouwerij de Landtsheer Malheur

Today’s beer is Malheur, from Kleinbrouwerij de Landtsheer, a Belgian traditional-revival “microbrewery.” This bottle conditioned Belgian ale is spicy with notes of clove and ginger and even a little banana from the yeast, with floral hops up front on the palate and a long dry finish. Michael Jackson (the beer MJ) notes that the brewery uses their own fresh hops which explains the unusually floral character of the beer.

The name? That’s a better story. There’s a uniquely Belgian style of strong blonde ales that all have names like “Duvel” (devil), “Lucifer,” “Mort Subite” (Sudden Death), and “Delerium Tremens.” Malheur? It means “misfortune.” Ironic, for such a good beer.