Monday, March 30, 2009

In The Kingdom Of Gourmandia: Part VII

The final stop on my Restaurant Week adventure was quite the exclamation point. I had landed 8:30 dinner reservations on a Friday at Top of the Hub.

When I first came to Boston, I'd heard about this place. All mention of it was put forth either with great reverence -- it was occasionally posited as the best restaurant in Boston -- or that damning definitive descriptive, "overrated." It now occurs to me that none of those people knew anything about food, or even anything about anything at all. It took me three years to actually visit it for the first time, taken there by a friend for my twenty-first birthday for a pair of martinis and a split dessert.

I didn't really get that far with assessing the place at the time; the view was lovely, but how much of a read can you get on any place's cuisine when you're fighting for bites of a shared dessert with a girl who can't stop lamenting the psychiatric shortcomings of her corporate executive boyfriend no one's ever seen?

Needless to say, I needed another trip to make a formed opinion, and last Friday was the night to do it.

A caveat reared its ugly head on Friday morning, as my intended company for the evening scratched himself from the lineup, citing a head cold of the fast and furious variety. In a bizarre twist of fate, I had an incredibly difficult time filling the spot; everyone had plans, or was also sick, or could neither afford it nor bring themselves to let me treat them. It was just baffling; dinner with me is so nice!

Shortly before I had to leave work, my friend Chris agreed to go.

Had he not, I had pretty much resolved that I would put forth a solo effort, get drunk, eat for two, and make a scene.

But, alas, I had company, so it was business as usual. My ears must've popped at least three times during the elevator ride up to the fifty-second floor; I really must get more accustomed to changes in elevation. When we arrived, though fairly early, our table was almost ready.

Weeks ago, when I made the reservations in the first place, I'd actually filled out the "special requests" input box with a bid for window seating along the northeast-facing side of the building. I figure everyone asks for a window seat, and anyone smart enough to factor in the logistics of what faces what would request the northeast side, but I also figured that there is no harm in asking for what you want nonetheless; the worst anyone can say is a simple "no."

And so it was that our table for two was in the exact center of the northeast-facing side of the building, immediately pressed against the windows, and there was a view, and yay, for this was good:

Forgive the cell phone quality of the photo; the view still rules.

Even if the food was terrible, the sights were enough to bring a tear to the eye of someone with even the slightest Yurtle the Turtle complex.

I ordered the tuna tartare to start, which came blended with avocado and paired with small portions of pickled ginger and seaweed, plus a sticky, sweet teriyaki-ish soy sauce and some spicy mayo for smothering. It was a good way to start things off, but there's little to be said for the preparation, because the only skill in preparing raw fish is in its portioning, pairing and arrangement. Ain't nobody cook nothin' yet.

The foie gras that followed -- I'm a sucker for ordering foie gras... it's like creme brulee in that it's a fantastic litmus test for a kitchen's skills -- came with warm pineapple and some sort of granola-like brick. I forget what the menu said, and don't much care. I nearly lost my fork prying into the damn thing and though it wins obligatory points for originality, there's something to be said for not fixing what isn't broken. I would've traded in my pineapple and grainy brittle for just one nicely toasted triangle of brioche, especially considering how runny the foie gras was. Kudos to Le Petit Robert; they do it better.

By the time the main course was set to arrive, I was done trifling with cocktails and had summoned a bottle of Veuve from what wasn't exactly a comprehensive champagne selection in comparison with my expectations. The server opened the bottle flawlessly, but upon tilting it to pour, let well more than a taste's worth out onto the table, and, after having presented to Chris for approval rather than me -- it is my understanding that traditional wine panache calls for presentation to the individual who'd ordered the wine -- he poured him the taste as well.

All I will say is that it is difficult to mistake one of us for the other.

For my entree I had decided to go for the jugular and order the "market price" two-pound lobster. And so continued my difficulty with lobster; I thought that by ordering the menu item entitled "Native 2 lb. Lobster," described as having a crabmeat stuffing, that I would finally get a solid dose of the elusive -- even when named -- crustacean. When they brought my lobster to me, however, I could not help but notice that he was missing his fucking claws. What do I have to do to get a decent portion of lobster in goddamn fucking Boston? Who do I have to blow? This is the motherfucking center of New England, and I can't get the claws on my lobster fifty-two stories up in the heart of town?

Even more annoying: the lobster that I did get was absolutely delicious, including the crabmeat stuffing which replaced the bluish-green visceral tissue of the lobster -- considered by some to be a delicacy -- which I was happy to go without. The meal was, admittedly, so good that it was difficult to be disappointed about a clawless lobster, even though, across the table, Chris was doing mighty justice to his lobster macaroni and cheese which contained, suspiciously, claw meat.

For dessert, the creme brulee. It was completely up to par with expectations; no complaints whatsoever there. Consistently flame-licked on top so nothing was too burned or left untouched, with the custard beneath remaining smooth and creamy without even a hint of graininess. Very good.

Overall, the Top of the Hub does things pretty well, though they miss the little touches here and there that would otherwise put them over the top in offering an experience of unquestionable class an opulence. The servers should probably double-check to make sure their guests are done with a dish before removing it from the table, especially with the appetizers in their limited portions, and not spilling any bit of a bottle of champagne for which the restaurant rate is more than 125% of the market price would probably be advisable. Nonetheless, with so much else going for it, the fact I could order lobster by itself, receive it without the claws and still come away feeling summarily satisfied speaks volumes of the complete experience.

Would do again, at some point.

Friday, March 27, 2009

In The Kingdom Of Gourmandia: Part VI

Last night, Hanah joined me for Le Petit Robert Bistro.

I'd been to the installment on Columbus Avenue in the South End twice before with Robert. We essentially took turns being completely incapacitated after attempting to down their very rich lobster bisque -- which contains lobster -- and I have since felt challenged to conquer its food-coma inducing powers. The most stand-out memory, however, is the back-handed compliment we received from the waitress on our first trip.

Once we had announced our orders, she said, and I do definitely quote:
"At first, when you came in, I thought you were cheap, but now we must get you to stay forever!"
Now, picture this coming from someone who, in speech, sounds pretty much exactly like Celine Dion. Isn't that just fucking precious? What can't French people do...

The Kenmore location, which is where Hanah and I went last night, had pretty much the same atmosphere. A dimly-lit, tightly packed -- and thus, rather warm -- establishment.

When I saw the Restaurant Week pre-fixe, I immediately jumped ship and turned my attention to the regular menu. I was determined to take on a complete four-course gauntlet.

Things started off with their trio of pates, a delicious dish comprised of foie gras, pork, and country pates with cornichions and mustard, plus a relatively soft warm baguette on which to spread them. I've had this dish before and loved it; last night's offering was consistent with previous orders. I will say that toasted triangles of brioche would make this just a little better, but that's a statement that can apply to so very many things.

The lobster bisque that followed was satisfactory. There seemed to be a gentle spice in the nutmeg-cinnamon-clove family going on, giving the soup a softer tone than I'm used to, also somewhat masking how very rich their version of the dish is. I did not, however, fall immediately into a food-coma after finishing it this time. A tribute to my developing endurance!

For the entree -- the main reason I strayed from the pre-fixe -- I ordered the sweetbreads. Sweetbreads just don't show up on many menus, but they're apparently available year-round at Le Petit Robert. Ever-so-lightly breaded with a dash of sea salt, the mixed vegetable and mashed potato sides that accompany them are rendered irrelevant; the sweetbreads dominate the dish and are simply the only part worth paying any mind to.

For dessert, I had the creme caramel, which was basically flan doused in a thin caramel syrup, accompanied by a flaky cookie. It was good, though my sample of Hanah's citron tart brulee informed me that I should've ordered that.

Le Petit Robert Bistro is cozy if not a little stuffy, but thoroughly enjoyable. The menu options, extensive and inviting, are probably suited for no more than two courses on account of how rich most of them are. I look forward to returning in warmer weather for some patio dining; a little more champagne and a little less food.

My stomach may not forgive me anytime soon, but as soon as it does, would do again.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In The Kingdom Of Gourmandia: Part V

Last night was the beginning of the home stretch, the final three days of Restaurant Week in which I had planned to visit three strong favorites in the scramble for my new culinary cocaine.

Wednesday found me at Gaslight, Brasserie du Coin with Sarah. Gaslight is not terribly expensive, nor terribly adventurous, but the former is never a problem and the latter is actually a positive in this case, as Gaslight strives to put forth a comprehensive menu of dishes traditional to and iconic of French cuisine. Escargot, crepes, the works.

Softly lit with globe lighting and muted table lamps, the restaurant walls are lined with clouded, speckled mirrors and two rows of sparkling water bottles up near the high ceiling. The booths and tables are all dark wood, done up with a deep burgundy leather and bronze studs, and the atmosphere is full but not crowded, with ambiance background noise of light dinner conversation and the less voluminous works of Edith Piaf (for whom one of their cocktails is named).

Gaslight, like most of the other places I've visited so far, was also offering its regular menu, and how fortunate, as I was so hoping to re-sample their onion soup gratinee, a gruyere-topped wonder with soaked baguette and truffled short rib.

But we started with drinks; I had to go with the Fleur De Lis. Normally I would be opposed to a gin-based drink, but this had violet liqueur and a champagne floater, so, what the Hell. And it really wasn't bad at all, in fact I liked it. It was light and refreshing, and completely lacking of the usual "pine tree splinters in the throat" flavor of gin to which I will never be quite accustomed.

My onion soup came along just as I remembered it, and was consistent with my assessment as the best of its kind in town. From the pre-fixe menu, I was tempted by the opportunity to order lobster bisque with the likelihood that Gaslight would show up The Palm, but how often does one get the opportunity to enjoy braised veal cheeks on duck fat toasted brioche? The word "tender" would not even begin to accurately describe the dish; I was infinitely grateful that the restaurant provides an abundance of bread in hot baguette form with which to soak up the juices of this delicately portioned, savorable dish.

Having polished off my Fleur De Lis, I moved on to the Can Can, which was ginger liqueur and champagne with candied ginger at the bottom. I would be finishing my third Can Can by the end of the night.

For the entree, though lured by the navarin of lamb with turnip puree and pearl onions, not to mention the scallops in tagliatelle with scallions and strips of ham, I rarely turn down cassoulet. And I was incredibly happy with my choice. The duck confit and garlic sausage were perfectly portioned over the white beans, all sprinkled with a bacon crumble. Heart disease, surely, was the secret ingredient, but after the cheesy onion soup and the braised veal cheeks, there was no stopping this bus.

Finally, for dessert, I ordered what was one of the most anticipated dishes of the many pre-fixed menus I perused when selecting my reservations. Champagne sorbet with black currant syrup and parisienne macarons. The portion was generous, perhaps exceedingly so, as I was quite full just midway through, but it was fantastic. The sorbet was airy and retained just a hint of fizz, while the syrup added a sweet tartness here and there. The cookie, meanwhile, was in a category of its own, easily the finest Parisian-style macaron I've been able to get my hands on here in the U. S., as of yet unable to sample the source.

Gaslight may not have been quite so posh as Clink or as diverse in menu as Tremont 647, but stands alone in overall satisfaction thus far. Would do again and again.

In The Kingdom Of Gourmandia: Part IV

Tuesday heralded the "second half" of my Restaurant Week adventure. That is, the selection of restaurants to which I'd already been that seemed to require another -- cheaper -- visit.

The first of those was The Palm Boston, part of The Palm restaurant chain. I was first introduced to The Palm for my twentieth birthday by my aunt and uncle, and I was thoroughly impressed. I returned with "the boys" for New Year's Eve that year, where, again, my 16 oz. filet mignon was everything I hoped it would be.

I hadn't been since, enduring lengthy periods of time during which I could barely afford ramen noodles, let alone New York sirloin cuts. And The Palm hadn't previously opted to participate in Restaurant Week, positing itself with such previous untouchables as L'Espalier and Top of the Hub, immune to discounting their dinner services for new business and limiting the offer strictly to lunch. This year, however, as was the case with even the most uppity of establishments, they elected to participate fully. Having noted this development, and still holding very favorable memories of previous visits, I could not pass it up.

And so, on Tuesday, Erika and I made our way to The Palm Boston, situated in the Westin Hotel in the Back Bay area of town. Rather lost on what to drink -- torn between cocktails or wine -- we went with what seemed like a compromise. The girly-sounding "strawberry sparkling mojitos" we ordered were, it turned out, a compromise of unexpected context. I found the drink absurdly strong, even unnecessarily so. Mind you, this is coming from someone who will view the "rocks" portions of "vodka rocks" as a mixer if the vodka is smooth enough. The drink was just awful, a steely sort of rum with strawberry seeds and some very ill-looking mint sludged at the bottom. Unpleasant.

The appetizer choices were thin; lobster bisque, salad, or a different salad. Since I don't believe in eating salad when the salad in question is not a sexual euphemism, I went with the bisque. There was a distinct flavor of lobster in what I was served. This is more than I could say for the lobster bisque I was once served at the Daily Grill where, upon inquiring why my lobster bisque had been made without any hint of lobster, the server raised his hands in surrender and asserted his vegetarian status as though he was some how thereby Switzerland in the war on what amounts to false advertising, not my yet-to-be-commissioned liaison to the kitchen. But the actual flavor of lobster is the only thing The Palm's bisque had over the Daily Grill's; though I am certain any representative of The Palm would purport their food to be of higher quality than the products of the Campbell's Soup Company, I am here to report that on practically infinite occasions I have cracked open a can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup to encounter visible amounts -- if modest -- of chicken, and noodles, no less, but in a thorough search through The Palm's lobster bisque, I was completely unable to locate a even a suggestive shred of langoustine or prawn masquerading as their more prestigious cousin throughout the bowl.

Restrauant Week or not, Old Bay and sea salt do not a lobster bisque make, and to preface the dish on the menu with the words "our famous" seems almost humorous if one simply measures it by the relatively easy standard of containing some fucking lobster.

For the entree, I was torn. There was something called a "veal martini," with sun-dried tomatoes and such. And a salmon dish with lobster mashed potatoes, which I did not order. The meaning of "lobster mashed potatoes" is called into question, post-bisque-debacle. Perhaps the potatoes are mashed in the kitchen by the lamenting claws of a doomed lobster in his final moments of anguish. But the steak dish seemed too perfect. New York sirloin, butter-poached lump lobster meat, and wild mushroom risotto.

At the server's recommendation, I ordered the steak.

Having defeated my mojito, I wanted something different, specifically something unlike the cocktail I'd just had. When I asked for their cocktail menu, I was provided with a small list, along with the assertion that "the bar is very extensive." So I said "All right, let's put the bar to the test," and before I could begin to make my request, the server cut me off with a scoff, as though it was pathetic to suggest I would request anything they didn't have in stock. His confidence was encouraging, but upon listing my first ingredient of choice, he cringed. "I'd like pear vodka shaken with..."

"Oooh, um, pear vodka? Yeah, um, sometimes we have it. Let me check with the bar really quickly..."

Alas, no pear vodka. How now, brown cow. So I went with a listed cocktail entitled "Tease Like A Tart." It tasted of key lime pie soaked in rubbing alcohol, and was a substantial improvement over its predecessor in the beverage department. Perhaps I should've gone with wine?

The entree was not quite what I expected. The steak was rare, as ordered, and visible lobster meat made its first formal appearance of the night, but the wild mushroom risotto was served as an arancini, which was unheralded in its description on the menu and unwelcome. I was hoping for a slow-cooked, creamy risotto and instead was greeted with a fried arancini ball which I sampled but rejected.

For dessert, I went with the trio of sorbets, and this turned out to be the only meal with which I was fully pleased or even pleasantly surprised. Three generous scoops, one each of passion fruit, raspberry, and mango sorbet, presented by themselves. The sorbets needed nothing else; they were very good.

But, all in all, had this been my only experience with The Palm, I'd have wondered how they established themselves as a name at the steak and lobster table. However, knowing what they are capable of from prior visits, I maintain that there is potential for a very good meal there, but whether my Restaurant Week visit was universal half-assing on account of the discounted event -- unadvisable, considering the other recent mailing list promotions I've received from the chain imply that the recession is hitting them solidly in the books -- or if this was simply an isolated blip on their track record, I can say that, given much more positive experiences at every other restaurant I've visited thus far for Restaurant Week, my enthusiasm for a return visit is considerably diminished.

Would not do again anytime soon.

In The Kingdom Of Gourmandia: Part III

No restaurants participate in Restaurant Week on Sundays, forcing me to attend Privus with Erika for their snow maki, Pink Floyd maki, and spicy Walu white tuna roll in the brief intermission.

But on Monday, the game was afoot once again. The destination was Tremont647 with Bobby, who declared the evening a celebration on account of his recent full-time hiring at the architecture firm where he'd been on contract for months. Indeed, in the current economic climate -- which, at this point, needs little explanation -- this is worthy of substantial toasting.

So the first order of business was to conjure a bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte rose (NV), which, to my delight, even our waiter couldn't pronounce. Feuillatte isn't typically my first choice, but there was no Moet, Vueve, or Jouet in sight, so "Nick," as Bobby and I have now decided to refer to him, did just fine.

Chosing an appetizer was easy; lobster mac'n'cheese. It was everything one could hope it would be; a hardy cheese blend -- including grueyer -- baked just enough so that the edges were turning golden but the core of the dish remained moist and saucy. The lobster was well-represented. I didn't expect a "lobster in every bite" type of ratio -- almost no pasta dish will ever contain such a ratio... I've learned that one must order lobster by itself in order for such a condition to exist, and otherwise expect lobster to be, at best, visible -- but in this case, there was plenty.

The entree was a bit more of a challenge. Fish? Duck? Or the lobster, shrimp, and diver scallops over pasta with "oven-dried tomatoes." Oddly enough, I think it was the oven-dried tomatoes that made me chose the dish. At first, I thought, "Why would they dry them in an oven?" But then it occurred to me that this sounds significantly more sanitary than "sun-dried tomatoes." I had to know.

Once again, lobster was actually prominent within the dish, though I think there was a total of one diver's scallop, the overall portioning of seafood was considerable. The cream sauce was rich without being excessively heavy, and I'm fairly sure the pasta was made in-house from scratch. As for the oven-dried tomatoes, they contain more moisture than their poverty-stricken, street-dwelling sun-dried cousins, and are -- at least in my opinion -- actually more appetizing.

By the time dessert arrived, Bobby and I had killed Nick, and though I was very disappointed to find that my "chocolate almond financier" was quite literally just a glorified and rather dry brownie, it was better than having ordered a more enticing dessert, as I found myself completely full and satisfied from the two previous courses and the champagne.

Tremont647 is no replacement for Excelsior, this is for sure. Though dessert was an utter disappointment, I'm fairly confident that a more in-depth tour of their menu would turn results of end-to-end satisfaction, and so a return is definitely in order. Would do again.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

In The Kingdom Of Gourmandia: Part II

Saturday's Restaurant Week stop was the sole lunch date of the seven adventures, a belated celebration of Brent's return to Boston at Oishii in the South End.

Oishii must've anticipated a fiend such as myself might attend during Restaurant Week and require a bit more sushi than the three-course pre-fixe menu had allotted, and also offered their a la carte sushi and regular lunch menus as backup.

The atmosphere was dark and calm; the wall adjacent to the stairs leading to the downstairs dining area is a grey water fountain which ends up in a shallow pool surrounding the area below the stairs. Neat.

The pre-fixe appetizer choice was relatively uninspiring, a choice between sweet potato tempura -- a terrifying notion -- and miso soup -- a bore. I went with the soup, because fried foods leave me urpy, and watching Brent struggle to consume what looked, visually, like a fried rack of orange ribs on a skewer... well, I figured I'd gone with the less cumbersome appetizer, in the very least.

But it didn't matter, because next to the soup, and only slightly less cloudy, stood my pear cocktail. What on Earth is it about pear vodka with sparkling wine? Every establishment should offer such a cocktail. Nothing else is quite so tolerable in a martini glass. As a side note, I am rather opposed to the martini glass. For all its alleged elegance, it, above all other stemware, reduces the odds of the alcohol actually making it to my mouth, increasingly so with each installment.

If little children behave like drunks, and vice versa, shouldn't our grown-up beverages be served with crazy straws, or in sippy-cups? I'm just striving for efficiency, here.

The drinks were all made upstairs from where we were seated, by the way. This meant our server -- pleasant if a bit unpolished -- had to carry them down on a tray. When you're getting drunk on a Saturday afternoon, the only thing scarier than having to watch your waitress creep down the stairs with your drinks as she teeters left and right is... well, there's nothing more frightening, now, is there.

She actually managed to reach the bottom of the stairs without spilling each time, but then, presumably having relaxed her focus a bit, allowed a bit of each to escape when transfering them to our table.

And it was too of a place nice of a place for me to lap up the casualty.

The entree portion of the pre-fixe had three types of sushi. Chief amont them, a large roll, called the "Route 66," which contained -- if I recall correctly -- spicy tuna, cream cheese, shrimp tempura and lettuce with eel sauce. There was also a smaller roll of tuna, and some salmon nigiri. All very, very high quality. The sushi we ordered from the regular menu, however, was even better. Salt water eel topped with a slice of what appeared to be a pygmy lime and some lavender, a whole lobster claw balanced with a dash of old bay, Walu white tuna... all splendid.

I managed to stray from my pear concoction after managing to persuade Brent to let me try his ginger Manhattan. Neither of us are Manhattan guys, but he was raving to point where he didn't want to share in the first place. Thus, I had to try it, and, upon tasting it, was forced to subsequently order one for myself.

Dessert was green tea ice cream -- and a second ginger martini. Brent, who is picky about just everything, declared Oishii to have provided the best sushi he's ever had. So fond of my local -- less classy -- joint, Privus, I'm not sure I would echo that particular declaration, but Oishii is worthy of a repeat, if even only for drinks. Would do again.

In The Kingdom Of Gourmandia: Part I

Restaurant Week is upon me, or, rather, I am upon it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am tearing it up.

Things kicked off last Friday with Robert at a place called Clink. Located inside of the ironically named Liberty Hotel -- renovated from a gorgeous building that was once what I imagine to be a rather endearing prison -- Clink is just as posh as the hotel in which it is nested. I must confess, any establishment which features champagne cocktails made strictly with Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin champagne can put its hand down my pants. I'm not sure exactly what I mean by that, but I'm happy with how it came out and I think I've communicated my point well.

They even have a separate champagne bar with all Veuve Clicquot. I'm like, yeah, put your mouth on it.

Moving right along.

The appetizer was slowly-poached hen egg and laughing bird shrimp with toasted brioche. The egg portion was a bit awkward, given that the tiny Yankee Candle-ish vessel in which it came made it slightly difficult to access the slop once the egg's, uh, hull had been breached. But the shrimp were as delightfully unique as their name would imply (though, fortunately, unaccompanied by laughing birds), and the brioche was perfection.

For the entree, I went with the striped bass over white bean puree with black olives. I was happy with the selection; the fish was moist and supple including the skin portion which put up no fight to the fork or incisor, and the bean puree was a velvety background for the gentle punch of the black olives.

Dessert was the gamble. Bay leaf panna cotta with rosewhip jam and homemade shortbread cookies. I was hesitant to order this, as I have only known bay leaves to be temporary flavoring agents in Italian cuisine, specifically appetizers and entrees but never desserts. But my reasoning suggested that it wouldn't have become a Restaurant Week menu item if they hadn't figured it to be a more-than-presentable pleasant surprise, which is just what it turned out to be. Al three components met each other well, and the dish didn't stand a chance.

I was just two rather generous blackberry champagne cocktails deep by the finish, and awash in satisfaction. The only low mark for Clink would have to be in the category of service; our waiter was the very portrait of lethargy. I imagined a slightly higher standard of persona, given the quality of every other aspect of the establishment, but Clink gets very high remarks nonetheless, and the ever-prestigious "would do again."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

From Russia, With Love

When the tides turned in Diplomacy, Russia was quick to send messages to me that implied a certain... fascination. Thereafter, he began asking me for advice on how to fend of the very allies he knew I united against him. If that wasn't strange enough, he started another game wherein he decided to play as France, and began asking me for advice on moves in that game. But his latest message really takes the cake; there is nothing quite like being compared to a Nazi general:
"Are you like a Jedi master or something, more like a Montgomery or a Rommel I suppose?"
Mind you, I had just taken Norway and Denmark from him. Nonetheless, it seems as though this message came from Russia, with love, actually.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

These Naked Walls

Most of the walls are bare in any bedroom or apartment in which I've lived. Because I have yet to own the walls in which I dwell, I cannot paint, and the holes left by driven nails are generally discouraged. Beyond that, I am just generally obscenely selective about what I'd put on a wall. Apparently I'd rather have blank walls than stick up something that in my view falls even slightly short of being a complete triumph.

To date, I have authorized only three objects to cling from the walls of my current apartment.

My beloved print of "Christmas Disaster Special" from A Lesson Is Learned (But The Damage Is Irreversible) adorns the bedroom wall above the dresser where I assemble empty champagne bottles to use as candlesticks.

Above the other dresser hangs a tiny photograph of the Commonwealth Avenue pedestrian mall's statue of John Glover, or as I refer to him, Captain Fabulous. Really, you must admit; that statue is fantastic. John Glover must've been pretty awesome, because, well, just look at that fucking statue.

The photo I have, however, is particularly special in that Captain Fabulous has his complete sword. The thin stretch of metal that form the sword -- not the sheath, which remains intact -- had already been knocked out by some unholy rapscallion prior to our first encounter, but during a restoration two summers ago, the sword was repaired, and I snagged a photograph on a bright summer day for proof. As I anticipated, weeks later, someone had fucking stolen the Captain's sword again. But it's memory lives on, on my wall.

The third piece of all art I've authorized is a giant poster of the head of a great white shark emerging from the water, teeth a-blazin'. We haven't acquired this yet, but when we do, it's going over the toilet in the bathroom I share with T-Rex, to watch us pee.

That said, I think I may need a print of this. I'm not sure what the fuck is going on in this photograph, but there is definitely a lion in that sidecar, and this is awesome, and needs to be on my wall, perhaps in some sort of gaudy frame. He will sit, perhaps, over my bed. And pass judgment on all the sex. Not sure yet.

But I need it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Great Pumpkin

Two years ago, I got a pumpkin for Halloween. I picked it from a patch in Vermont somewhere, roadtripping through northern New England with Kelly. When I purchased it, I asked the girl working the register if its dark green complexion would have any bearing on its livelihood as a pumpkin. I asked because the only other green pumpkin I recall encountering in the past was one my sister had selected when we were both very small, and that pumpkin effectively turned to slime shortly before Halloween.

"No," she said, "it'll be fine."

She was a lying witch.

I took my pumpkin home, sat it upon a coffee table, and lovingly named it Horatio, with plans to carve a marvelous face for him 'pon the weekend before All Hallow's Eve. But Horatio did not survive a full week, and, like his ancestor, turned to slime with record speed. I was devastated.

This past September -- late in September, I recall -- I saw that pumpkins had arrived at the supermarket that's just around the corner from where I live. I selected, securely, an orange pumpkin, of what seemed to be perfect proportions and hardy constitution.

The girl at the checkout gave me a look as she passed my new pumpkin to be bagged.

"Isn't it a little early to be buying a pumpkin?"

"You're selling them now."

And that was that.

I named him Horatio II, and he sat in many places in the kitchen and living room. I did not carve him by Halloween, and decided to leave him intact for Thanksgiving, provided he did not rot. And Horatio II didn't rot. In fact, he turned out to be the very Methuselah of pumpkindom.

December arrived, and there sat Horatio II, emitting no odor, showing no signs of mold, his rind as tough and fresh as ever. January snows piled up in our courtyard, and Horatio II looked on in complete approval. Feburary came and though I finally took my Christmas tree down, I could not bring myself to part with Horatio II. He showed no signs of decline, and it was fun to tell Sarah that he was filled, secretly, with millions of evil beetles. Beetles who would one day be free, and come for her.

And when Horatio II made it to March, I figured he might well last until next Halloween. But on his weekly checkup this past week, mold was discovered, and it had spread by Friday. For all his endurance, the end came quickly. This morning, in cleaning up the apartment to prepare for tonight's car bombs (in honor of St. Patrick's Day), I took Horatio II out to the shed and shot him.

Well, I bagged him and threw him in the dumpster. But it doesn't mean I loved him any less.

He shall forevermore be remembered as Horatio II: The Great Pumpkin, or Horatio the Great for short. Tonight, I will drink to, among many other things, his memory.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Closer To Reality

I find it interesting -- for a number of reasons -- that ESPN's Eric Young is condemning Papelbon for trashing Manny now that he's left the Sox, breaking the unwritten rule about discussing what goes on in a baseball clubhouse.

First off, since when does a member of the sports media have any room to complain about an athlete actually dishing dirt and coughing up details? Guys like Jim Rice and -- oh yeah -- Manny Ramirez (while he was with Boston, anyhow) were long criticized and even, in Rice's case, delayed entry to the Hall of Fame for failure to deal well with reporters.

And it's not as if the truth isn't demanded even if it's unpleasant. For details on this, please see all of the drama swirling around the issue of steroids in baseball. Let's not fool ourselves, either; it was the truth. And which of the following is more dishonorable: Manny feigning injury to stay off the field and half-assing it when he was on the field for Boston so he could slip out of the contract he had agreed to honor, or Papelbon admitting that it sucked to be his teammate during that time even though you're not supposed to talk about that stuff. Yeah, let's scold Papelbon.

Let's also not forget that Papelbon didn't come out and say these things when Manny was still on the team allegedly being a cancer. All he did was tell the truth -- when prompted to do so -- after Manny had left, in the process of defending the strength and unity of his current team with Jason Bay in left field, certainly a higher obligation. Young seems to think it'd have taken more balls to trash a current teammate. I seem to think that's a more legitimate violation of baseball's unwritten code with which a talking head could take issue.

If I were to compare Papelbon to anyone, it would be Mongo from Blazing Saddles. He's a big, clumsy beast who you send out when you want something done. Chastising him for telling the unpleasant truth to your own industry is not only dumb but futile. Much as my general policy with regard to pitchers is "shut up and pitch," I can at least realize that a 6'4" closer from Louisiana who relies on his heat a bit too much is going to flap his gums every now and then.

And as long as he keeps his ERA under 2.50 for my team, I'll find it mighty hard to take issue with him. Not unlike how when Manny was on the Sox, as long as he went out and played and put up a .300+ average with 30+ HR's and 100+ RBI's, I didn't much care about much else.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Night You Can't Remember

If life was a soap opera, I would be the character constantly stricken with an inconveniently selective case of amnesia. I can remember, for instance, every line from "Kill Bill Vol. 2," but I cannot, on the other hand, remember what the Hell my plans are supposed to be for Saturday.

Help me, second installment of the Deven Green parody videos of Brenda Dickson!

I believe it was Nietzsche who once cautioned against staring into a vajeene for too long...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

All Is Well That Ends

Having roused myself at 5:45 A.M. this morning in order to comply with T-Rex's need to leave for work by 6:30 A.M. this week, I wasn't that surprised when the driver's side front door on his car refused his keys, meaning I would be unlocking the car from my side. As he went to toss them over, he expressed annoyance at having to clean off his car again, as a substantial amount of snow and ice had apparently slid from the rooftop immediately above where he parked. It wasn't until I got into the car, however, that I had the pleasure of breaking the news to him that the impact of the ice and snow had destroyed his windshield, sending a spiderweb of cracks throughout the entire driver's side half of the glass.

Having determined that the cracks had not fully reached the inside of the glass, we started up the car and began the drive to work. But with each bump my dear roommate hit along the road -- and the road we take has no shortage of ambitious potholes -- the cracks expanded slightly. Ominous!

On the bright side, we would finally learn what it was like to be Ace Ventura at the wheel, though I could not help but play out a scenario in my head in which a bump caused the glass to completely implode, smattering T-Rex's face with thousands of shards and impairing his ability to drive in the process. At that moment, I -- only grazed by the shards in a way that would leave noticeable but sexy facial scars -- would then be his eyes, guiding the used Honda Civic otherwise known as The Ark safely along until we could further address the situation without the risk of physically greeting oncoming traffic from all directions.

In the alternate future, I am a hero.

In reality, I arrived safely at my destination, trying to slam the passenger's side door as gently as possible, proceeding to my desk with the blistering consciousness that, as far as starts to one's Thursday are concerned, only T-Rex's had been worse to my knowledge. But we -- the royal we -- are going to change that, all of that, immediately.

Fate -- though imaginary -- is on my side; one of my coworkers just handed me half an onion bagel, lightly toasted, with cream cheese already on. Tomorrow is pay day, which means I am quantifiable hours from sushi and freshly popped pink champagne, my Diplomacy games have all shifted in my favor, my Restaurant Week dance card of seven reservations just filled up, and I have declared it to be "Post Music To Your Blog Day." Those who do not participate will perish in flame.

Without further ado, here are the proper anthems by which to turn the tides of a Thursday that got off on the wrong face. Bukkake:

Bonus Levels:
Andrew W.K. - "Party Hard"
Bill Withers - "Lovely Day"
Ludacris - "Georgia" (dj erb remix)

Sunday, March 1, 2009


The following is a choice excerpt from a conversation with my ex about an online game of Diplomacy in which we're running a Franco-Italian alliance. This is, essentially, a suicide pact, but so far we're holding our own in the face of the Juggernaut (a firm Russia-Turkey alliance).

Me: But we have one huge benefit right now
Me: And that's naval power
Him: Togetherness?
Him: Oh.

They should call it... DipLOLmacy.


I'm probably slaughtering the quote, but I believe it was Ben Franklin who said that "some people are weather-wise, but most folks are otherwise."

Because I am completely unabashed about embracing my inner dork, yesterday I attended a get-together of members from a message board about the fucking weather.

It was about twenty straight guys, mostly thirty or older, and me. It's essentially a bizarre fraternity with no pledge process by which to filter the absolute train wrecks, so, needless to say, it's a very, very motley crew. Regardless of my status anomalies as the lone early-twenties man-fucker of the bunch, I didn't end up paying for any of my drinks.

They flirted openly with the waitress, who, ironically enough, was interested in me.

On more than one occasion, the bartender asked us to move to another section of the bar as we -- a bunch of weather enthusiasts and meteorologists rattling off conjecture -- had become too rowdy in the immediate vicinity of the quieter dinner-hour crowd.

This is actually not that surprising, though; the annual conferences are famous for debauchery and excessive partying. The last time I attended, yours truly was kicked out of the hotel pool in my underwear in Philadelphia at four in the morning, feigning immigrant ignorance with a horrid drunken attempt at a Russian accent that wasn't exactly fooling the police.

At some point during the evening, a small gaggle of mid-forties gays wandered into the bar, one of whom, apparently, decided to bark deliberately up the wrong tree for laughs, ambling over and asking questions about the weather as though actually interested in the responses offered by my comrades.

I spent the rest of the evening serving as a sexuality Wikipedia for the rabble,

Oh well.

We couldn't have picked a better night to banter about weather, seeing as there's a massive storm on the way this evening. I'm anticipating that my office will be closed tomorrow, leaving me "free" to get blitzed and indulge my other nerdy vice, Star Wars Battlefront II.