Slice by Marco Castro Thursday, Jan 20 2011 

Lately I’ve had a constant craving for pizza. Any pizza. Pizza from the cafeteria at work. Pizza from our local pizza places (chains or locally owned). Homemade pizza. I can’t seem to get enough.

So, I find this short video by Marco Castro fascinating, partly for the pizza but mostly for the model, Asher Caplan! I first saw it on my new favorite blog, Sissydude, who saw it on another great blog, Homotography:

I love pizza too, but somehow I can’t manage to look this good eating it!

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My Favorite Restaurants in Italy Sunday, Jul 19 2009 

During our recent trip to Italy, PJ and I ate really well. With only one or two exceptions, all of our lunches and dinners were delicious, but five of our dinners stand out as our favorites. Although I have friends who have encouraged me to take pictures at restaurants and then use them on my blog, I didn’t end up taking many pictures of our food. Unfortunately, that means I don’t have a lot of pictures to back up all of the praise I’m going to give these restaurants.  So, I’ve “borrowed” a couple of pics from the restaurants’ websites.  In those cases, you can click on the picture to go to the restaurant’s site.

We were surprised by the lack of diversity in the cuisine at the restaurants we saw. Almost everything is Italian. After 10 days or so, we started getting a little tired of pasta and pizza, but as I said we ate really well so we can’t really complain all that much. Generally, we each had a primi piatti, or first course, of pasta and a secondi piatti of fish or meat. We also usually had gelato for dessert as we walked around after dinner.

Before briefly discussing my favorite eateries in Rome, Florence, and Venice, I should explain how we chose where to eat each evening. The first night we were in Rome, we just walked around for a while and then picked a place that looked ok. It turned out to be our worst meal in Italy! A second strategy was to go to a main plaza or square and eat at one of the outdoor restaurants that mostly served tourists. This strategy worked pretty well for us when we were in Spain a few years ago, but most of our meals in these restaurants in Italy were only adequate to ok.

Mostly, we looked up restaurants in Rick Steve’s guidebooks. Usually we chose a restaurant that he recommends, but instead of making a reservation ahead of time we showed up just after they opened for the evening.  This meant eating a little early by Italian standards — usually around 7:30 or 8 pm — but it worked fine for us. We always got a good table, and we often had the satisfaction of seeing later arrivals turned away or told to come back later. With only one exception, this was a winning strategy. All five of our favorite restaurants from this trip were the results of this method.

My favorite restaurant from this trip was Ristorante il Gabriello, a great little restaurant in near the Spanish Steps in Rome. It’s down in a basement, but is quite charming. Here’s a picture of the restaurant from their website:

This was actually the first restaurant we chose based on Rick Steve’s recommendation and the one that convinced us to continue employing this strategy. It was also the place that convinced us to just order the house wine at each place we ate: it’s cheap and delicious.

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Visiting Arkansas Friday, Aug 22 2008 

PJ and I spent a week in Arkansas visiting friends and his family. We had a great time, but it wasn’t the kind of trip that packed one exciting activity after another. It wasn’t Niagara Falls, in other words. That makes blogging about it a little difficult.

We went to Fayetteville first to visit our friends who live there. PJ went to the University of Arkansas for his undergraduate degree, and we’ve gone back there almost every year since we first got together. It’s interesting to see how much it’s changed in the last 14 years.

We also make the pilgrimage to see Harrington, the first cat that I spent any time around. She’s a great cat. When she was younger, she played a milk top game for pounce treats. That was our first glimpse at what a cat can add to a household. She’s older and kind of frail now, but she’s still great. Here’s her picture:

I kept forgetting to bring my camera with me as we did things, so I can’t illustrate all of my opinions, but I’ll relate the highlights anyway.

Once of my favorite Fayetteville landmarks is the Dickson Street Bookshop. It’s a great used book store. For years, I slowly bought the store’s collection of books from one of UA’s former eighteenth-century scholars, including his 11 volume set of Pepys’s diary. I highly recommend that anyone who likes to read stop by the Dickson Street Bookshop.

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Cooking Spanish Shrimp and Potatoes Sunday, Jul 13 2008 

On Saturday, PJ noticed that we had a bottle of Spanish wine. He therefore suggested that I try making a Spanish dish or two for dinner. We looked through our various cookbooks and ultimately found two dishes that looked good. (Oddly, we never opened the bottle of wine, though!)

The first dish I found was for Spanish potatoes. I had recently mentioned that I hadn’t had potatoes in a while, which seemed a little strange since I love them so much. The recipe was pretty easy to make and turned out great. Here’s a pic of the finished product:

Spanish Potatoes

I’ll post the recipes and pics of the rest of the meal after the break.

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My First Curry Thursday, Jul 3 2008 

Tonight I made my first curry dish. PJ had been looking through one of our cookbooks and, since it was my turn to cook but didn’t have any idea what I wanted to make, he suggested I try one of the potato curry dishes.

One requisite I have for cookbooks is that there has to be pictures of the food — I usually need an idea of what I’m aiming for before I can decide to make something. So, I started flipping through the curry section and found a picture of a potato and cauliflower curry that looked good.

It turned out really well. Here’s a picture of what it looked like when I was finished (I know I need to work on my plating — watching Top Chef makes me ashamed of how badly organized my plate is!). Just click on the picture for a larger version.

Potato and Cauliflower Curry

Potato and Cauliflower Curry

The potatoes took a little longer to cook than the recipe had claimed, but mostly it went off without a hitch. In fact, it was much more delicious than I thought it would be as I cooked! It was also really spicy. The recipe listed one or two green chilies as an option, so I decided to use one. I figured that would be “medium” spicy, which is how PJ and I each order our Indian food at restaurants.

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Celebrating My Birthday Thursday, Jun 26 2008 

Today is my birthday. It’s been a good, relaxing day. It’s not a particularly big year, so I don’t feel any specific anxiety about aging or anything like that. I’m healthier than I’ve been in a while, eating well and exercising. Since my last birthday, I’ve lost 20 lbs. and I’m feeling good. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the obvious fact that I’m balding, but that’s not particularly birthday related. My relationship with PJ is the best it’s ever been, and my career is going well. All in all, I’m happy with myself, my life, and the world around me. So, having a good, relaxing day seems in order.

I woke up early and opened my presents from PJ. These included a iPod nano, which is what I had wanted most this year, a soapstone Ganesha, and the first two seasons of Sex and the City on DVD.

I spent most of the day loading music onto the iPod. Of course I just started loading stuff without really knowing what I was doing. This ultimately meant that I ended up downloading many more tracks individually than I would have had to if I had just slowed down, read the instructions, and thought about it for a second. (I have music on two different computers, and that led me to make a poor decision early on.) But now I have 150 tracks on the ipod and lots more room — about 98% — left to slowly add more music over the next few days.

Soapstone Ganesha

I’ve decided to sit my new Ganesha on my desk. Here’s a picture of it. Click on it to see a larger version. This is my third Ganesha statue (or statuette — they’re each only about 5 inches tall). I also have some postcards of Ganesha.

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Celebrating PJ’s Birthday Saturday, Jun 21 2008 

Yesterday was PJ’s birthday. To celebrate, we spent the night in Columbus. We sometimes talk about getting a hotel room in Columbus, having a nice dinner, and going out to some clubs, so we decided that this was a good time to finally do it.

We left Athens around 1 or 1:30. When we got to Columbus we went to The Book Loft, which we hadn’t been to in a long time. I was especially looking for some Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie, or Dorothy L. Sayers novels, but they didn’t have any I wanted. Instead, I bought P.D. James’s An Unsuitable Job for a Woman and 500 Greatest-Ever Vegetarian Recipes. One of the things I especially liked about this cookbook is that all the recipes come with a picture of the final product — I think that goes a long way in convincing me to try a new recipe. I like to know what I’m shooting for!

Afterwards, we went to a coffee shop next to the Book Loft, had a drink, and browsed the local papers to look for things to do that evening. After our coffee break, we drove over to our hotel, which was just on the southern end of the Short North. We stayed at the Hampton Inn on High Street. It’s a nice hotel, but the main draw for us was its location. We wanted a hotel close enough so that we could walk to (and more importantly back from) the gay bars.

But before that, we went to dinner. We had a reservation at Basi Italia, which is just off of the Short North in the Victorian Village. We’d been there once before with friends. We both liked our dinners ok, but we ultimately decided that it wasn’t quite as wonderful as we had remembered it. Last time, we had each ordered the Basi Caesar Salad, the eggplant parmesan, and cannoli. This time, PJ had trout and I had crab ravioli for our main courses. I started with roasted mussels, and Pj had the salad again. we shared a cannoli for dessert. Everything was fine, but the real standouts of the meal were the dessert, which was so yummy, and my glass of wine, a 2006 Montellori Chianti. I’ll have to keep an eye out for that brand again. I really liked its smooth, fruity flavor. We forgot to bring our camera with us, so I don’t have any pictures to accompany this description of our dinner — yet again, all apologies to Kathee!

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Where’s the Beef? Tuesday, Mar 4 2008 

A week ago today I officially became a vegetarian (of sorts). I’ve been thinking about becoming one off and on for a couple of years; I finally decided to start living up to my convictions.

A couple of weeks ago, a video clip of abuses at an auction circulated around the net. It depicted a “downer cow” that was unable to walk being hoisted with a forklift and repeatedly electrocuted with a prod. I read some complaints about the abuse of the cow; other people pointed out the problem with processing meat from an animal that was clearly ill. Here’s a longer version of the original video that I saw:

This video crystallized some of the things that I had already been thinking. I’m sure this will make me sound ridiculous, but it made me think about my cats. I’m sure cats are much smarter than cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs, etc., but seeing Marlowe’s and Paisley’s very different personalities and intelligences has made me wonder if other “stupid” animals deserve a little better from us humans. To see that cow’s shaking throughout much of that ordeal and imagining just how freaked out and in pain she must have been, made me ask the question that had been in my head for a while: do I really want to be a part of this system?

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Weekend in Cleveland, Part 2 Saturday, Nov 17 2007 

Last weekend, PJ and I, as well as our friends M&L, went to Cleveland for the Conference of the Midwest Modern Language Association. I’ve already written about the first half of the weekend.

After going to the Cleveland Museum of Art, PJ and I met up with M&L and a friend of theirs from graduate school for lunch at Flannery’s Pub, where I had the corned beef sandwich, which was so tasty and succulent. I’m constantly on the lookout for a good corned beef sandwich here in Athens but haven’t found one to suit my taste yet. Often, they can end up too greasy, or the corned beef doesn’t have much of a taste. This sandwich was perfect. (Excuse me while I pause for a moment and reminisce.)

Next, we went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is the second time we had been to the Hall of Fame. Consequently, we didn’t want to linger quite as much over some of the first exhibits as M&L did, so we went on ahead of them. In many ways, I find this museum overwhelming. There’s just too much to see and take in. So I spend most of my time search out Tina Turner memorabilia. I have to say that she’s not nearly as well represented in the Hall of Fame as she should be. Hopefully this error will be remedied by inducting her as an individual and not just as part of Ike and Tina Turner, which is how she is currently recognized.

The special exhibit this time was on The Doors. I have to admit that I don’t know much about them. We saw Jim Morrison’s grave while we were in Paris this summer. As part of the exhibit you can watch a video of a Door’s concert. I sat there for a while to see if I could get a little of The Doors experience. I eventually came to the conclusion that one really needs to be high on something to get the full effect. Their music seems to entice one towards drugs, which would undoubtedly augment the experience. Not being high, I couldn’t quite get into them while watching the video, but I was almost tempted to buy a CD of their music in the gift shop just to give them another chance. Almost.

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Weekend in Cleveland, Part 1 Tuesday, Nov 13 2007 

PJ and I spent the weekend in Cleveland. He was giving a paper at the Midwest Modern Language Association, and I tagged along for fun. Two of our friends drove up with us — one of them was also giving a paper. It was a lot of fun to get out of Athens and celebrate the end of the quarter.

PJ and I had visited Cleveland once before; he gave a paper at the same conference six years ago. At the time, he was teaching in Michigan, so meeting up in Cleveland for a weekend was a fun way to see each other. This time, we revisited the restaurants and museums that we saw six years ago. It was interesting to see what has changed and what hasn’t.

We arrived in Cleveland on Friday. Our friends were staying at a different hotel, so we dropped them off and then checked into our hotel, the Cleveland Renaissance Hotel. I forgot to take a picture of the hotel while we were there, so here’s a picture from the hotel’s website. I liked the hotel. Our room was spacious and clean. The bed was comfortable, and hooking up to the Internet was easy to do. After we checked in, we logged onto the Internet to see if there was anything in particular that we wanted to do on Friday night. While looking at a page that listed bars and entertainment opportunities, I found a couple of reviews of our hotel. I thought it was funny that one of the reviews complained that the hotel had been overrun by conference participants while they stayed there. I honestly never considered that “regular people” stay the same hotels where our conferences takes place. I can’t imagine some poor sap who accidentally gets a room during the MLA! They’d be surrounded by miserable job candidates lurking about in the hallways trying not to make eye contact with anyone! As a conference hotel, the Renaissance was just fine. We had no complaints.

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