Friday, April 30, 2010

A Heart Full of Broccoli

"Well... you're still married to him, even if his Facebook status says you're not."
- woman I overheard on the 7 train, on her cell phone, for serious.

Dear Mouse,

Sometimes, in moments of greatest darkness ... a Chef is Born.

roasted broccoli and tiny orange cauliflower in heart-shaped pan.
his-and-her S&P shakers.

I'll probably never forget the evening I spent with The Mayor last week. Now, that's saying a lot, considering all we did was meet up with our college friend JotaJota at his bar, catch up over several thousand beverages, insult each other and unfortunate strangers, sing loudly, and go home to a mighty hangover (ok, just me).

I mean, ma
ny, many evenings in my life fit this description. Sure, the location has varied, and our identities have morphed in several unpredictable ways... most notable of these the Mayor's transformation over the years from mild-mannered graphic designer to NYC's reigning King of Burlesque, who regularly appears on stages wearing glitter and not much else. But the cast and itinerary stay the same.

We were meeting to discuss
our upcoming **live band burlesque project ** (oh yeah, JULY 8 at this fabulous venue) and catch up. This is not why the evening will go down in history. Nor was it simply because we showed up in matching red denim outfits with zippered pockets -- seriously!! --though that sure is part of it . I'll say it was a night to remember for two reasons: 1) the fact that -- oh, I'll just call her Mrs. Mayor, why go there - asked The Mayor for a divorce not five min before we sat down at the bar, and 2):

... The Mayor. Is Writing. A Food Blog. ...

wait for it

... chronicling his rocky relationship (now breakup), one meal at a time. It's not open to the public, so you'll have to trust me on this.

Now, when did this happen? Back in the day i'm pretty sure The Mayor existed only on grain alcohol and Snyder's pretzels. Since then, we have been through a LOT of things together, but I'm gonna go ahead and say that a nice home-cooked meal (or even a restaurant excursion!) has been one of them ... never. I think I tried to feed him chicken soup the last time he came over, and he just leaned over the pot and inhaled appreciatively.

So, two pisco sours, a round of beer, and an ill-timed cabaret full of love songs at the Duplex later, we met up with Jota to make a Plan. Not for our show (which is
JULY 8!) but, for cooking dinner. Which, I am thrilled to let you know, happened, and looked like this:
L to R: roasted broccoli, shrimp wok-cooked with garlic, chiles, and red pepper, 'lime-scented rice' w/ cilantro. To drink: Negra Modelo beers.

In times of soggy despair I think two things are important in the kitchen. One is simplicity -- forgiving recipes that nourish without taxing an exhausted bodymind. The other is Heat - the kind from chiles, not burlesque. I believe a little spice in the food balances the, let's say humors, and rejuvenates. The shrimp went into the sizzling pan with a (gloved) handful of both thinly sliced jalapeno and anaheim chiles, all red and green and orange. At the same time, the other flavors of the meal were really subtle. I exhort you to make this fresh, delicate, "lime-scented rice" sometime. (You have to like cilantro boil the rice with a bunch of the leafy fragrant green right in there, then remove it just before serving. Beautiful.)

Finally, cooking in crisis offers a rare opportunity for insight into one's life. So the Mayor has this bag of shrimp he's frozen, which he wants to build the meal around. He's frozen them after they sat 4 days in the fridge. I, as will not surprise you, came down on the side of "let's not eat them", while he felt more in the "they're fine" sort of camp. We defrosted them, and somewhere during the deveining process, our dinner guest weighed in on my side, due to the impossible-to-ignore pungent-ness that was not going away. Democracy reigned. Gnashing his teeth in protest, The Mayor set out with Guest to buy new shrimp.

This is them.

They were delicious. And we ate them with a clear conscience and worry-free stomachs. But the thing is, I understand the teeth-gnashing. Who wants to go back to the store? Who wants to admit that the shrimp in your fridge, in which you invested many dollars, and in which you have faith and around which you based the whole meal, for pete's sake, just might have gone bad? You certainly don't want to even think about giving up on them, especially not when there's so much good there, and it's totally possible that the shrimp is fine! But there's a point where, no matter where you stand on the 'four days' issue, you have to acknowledge that they just smell really, really terrible, and let them go. Go out and get yourself a new bag of crustaceans. See the future... and then stir-fry it with garlic and chiles. Get out your cutest heart-shaped pan, your most X-rated cookware. You'll get through it.

With love and broccoli to brave men in thongs everywhere,

The Boo

Monday, April 19, 2010

Theater and Cookies: A Mouse Bouche goes Avant Garde

A scene from ERS's production of GATZ featuring one of our favorite people, and coming to The Public in 2011!

Dear Boo,

I have to say, I'm pretty excited about our big debut as caterers (haha) coming up on May 3rd for this amazing theater company's benefit! I'm especially pumped after our dessert brainstorming session this evening (chocolate and bacon, perhaps?). When our BFF and ERS Allstar, A-Mac sent this opportunity our way, I was thrilled, flattered, and terrified at the thought. Catering a party for the acclaimed downtown geniuses Elevator Repair Service with guests to include such super swanky stars as Fred Armisen, Frankie Faison, Frances McDormand, and Lili Taylor would be a huge honor and event for us lil mice and boos. So, for our first shot out of the gate we'll be making some sweet treats to cap everyone's evening off in A Mouse Bouche style, which I think was a good call. Stay tuned for the ensuing hilarity bound to occur as two charmingly scatterbrained sisters pull off the trick of a lifetime: lemon bars for 150. I see a celebratory dinner in our future. Perhaps Ms. McDormand will be at the head of the table.


The Mouse

P.S. If you want to invite your friends to get all classed up and rub shoulders with some incredible artists, tell them to go here, and join us for this better than great cause. Theater and food, together as they always should be.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Black Roses:Exorcism at the Brick Cafe

"I don't know how I got here. How did I get here? I was - I don't know, there's a kind of a blank." -
Orestes (last one, I promise!)

Dear Mouse,

Dont ask me how I wound up here, but:

"Is it possible that the most popular actors and actressses of the 20th and 21st centuries have been, and are, being possessed by demons?" - 'Hollywood Unmasked', an essay found on fundamentalist Christian web site

Hm. What do you think, Mouse? I'm going to say I may actually agree with Froot Loops, but not in the way that he/she/Pat Robertson may think.

Orestes is over. We closed on a high note, and now I'm back here, wherever that is. As you know, re-entry from these things can be a real bitch. You share every waking moment with a group of people, building an alternate reality, a small, private ecosystem, if you will... and then before you can say "travel reimbursement", it's gone. Disorienting, to say the least. As David said en route from the dentist, "Is this Real Life?"

According to my exhaustive, 10-minute research, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders apparently defines "Possession and possession trance" as

"a single or episodic alteration in the state of consciousness characterized by the replacement of customary sense of personal identity by a new identity."

So there you have it. It's our job! The trick is to maintain perspective and control. Possession, no matter how positive, eventually requires exorcism. Mine, of course, came in the form of ... dinner.

Helena took one look at me and knew what had to be done. I had all the symptoms: compulsive googling of the play's reviews, giggling through repeated anecdotes, mooning over saved text messages, and "intense, maniacal delight in wielding power" (oops, sorry, not that one - same web site again.) Who would know better? As you recall, she and I met on this project which was sheer heaven and which also took us several months and (at least in my case) unhealthy repetitions of the Foo Fighters' 'Let It Die' to get over. "Meet me Monday night", she said, "at the Brick Cafe."

At this point I should probably say that the Brick Cafe in Astoria Queens has a $25 prix-fixe on weeknights that looks none too shabby, though Helena and I ordered a la carte. Second, I will also say that we split a salad, a pasta, and a dessert and it was certainly enough for two people. They plated the pasta separately for us; no charge. Lovely.

Crepes Suzette with Rose Hip Jam. Delicious. Like a cherry and a flower had a baby... made of jam.
An exorcism, as I understand it, generally follows five ritual stages. Here was ours:
The Ritual (Menu)
(with a note that the ordering of
all black food was not int
entional, but is fascinating. Black is the traditional magical color for rituals of banishment. Oooooo....

1. The Presence (Black Olive Tapenade)
The participants become aware of the feeling or entity that must be expelled. This salty, gritty, dark, caviaresque spread arrives with bread. The Boo eats all of it, leaving none for Helena. Mmm. Such selfishness. Such a good idea and alternative to butter.

2. The Breakpoint (Nero d'Avola, or 'Black Wine of Avola')
Pretense collapses, and the demon reveals itself. The Boo drinks two satiny, purple glasses in succession and predicts that she will probably never work again.

3. The Voice (Black Linguine with Shrimp & Clams)

The Victim begins to let out a stream of "humanly distressing babble". Tipsily chanting in Ancient Greek under her breath, The Boo asks Helena if she's already told her that story about the old man in the audience who said "This is Stupid" out loud during the matinee. (Answer: Yes, twice.)

Squid ink makes this pasta black and gives it a subtle, marine intensity...

4. The Clash (Crepes Suzette with Rose Hip Jam)

The demon collides with 'the will of the kingdom' in direct battle. You get to choose two flavors; our second was Nutella. The Boo and Helena begin to discuss upcoming projects and the dinner they will cook for friends next week
Rose hips are what's left on a rose when the petals have fallen off (for serious), and are popularly used in spells of love and healing. Also, according to Wikipedia, they have "recently become popular as a healthy treat for pet chinchillas". Huh.

5. Expulsion (Black Irish Coffee, No Whip)

All present feel the demon's presence dissipate. The victim may not remember anything that has occurred. Helena's BF arrives for a drink, and The Boo tells him the story about the old man at the matinee.

So, Mouse, you can rest easy. I'm out of Argos and among friends. I still miss my peeps, but feel no need to involve Dave Grohl. I'll leave you with this: my research also revealed that the word "exorcism" comes from the Ancient Greek for "to place on oath", not necessarily to cast out. I'm friends with my demon. But if it ever gets the better of me, I'll head straight to a cozy table in good company. Just lock up the tapenade when you see me coming.


The Boo