Tag Archives: Arizona

Cheerwine Inspires Savannah Road Trip Plot, Alternate Thanksgiving Plans

There is a new fancy-pants (not to be confused with Clancy Pants) grocery store opening up around the corner from my apartment. And I hadn’t thought much of it as it looks like the kind of place that sells $9 jars of mustard and, as I am a penniless writer, it didn’t seem like the kind of place where I’d be popping in for incidentals.

Last weekend, T went out for a newspaper and such…and returned, much later than anticipated, with said paper and a bottle of Cheerwine from the aforementioned fancy-pants grocery store.

I’ve *heard* of Cheerwine. (In fact, I think the sole male blogger at the super-effusive lady-blog [for which I no longer write because I am not cut from the same super-effusive cloth] mentioned Cheerwine in his bio. He is based in North Carolina.)

T’s family, incidentally, is also in North Carolina. So…he knows the stuff and was somewhat excited about finding it here. We split the bottle – that’s right: a glass bottle, just like Coke from Mexico, or wherever it is that produces it with real sugar. The verdict? It was alright. Certainly hit the spot. Maybe kind of like Dr. Pepper? But a little more cherry-y? Or less cola-y? I’d give it a 3 or a 3.5 out of 5 gold stars. (Come to think of it, this may possibly explain why my food-writing career has not quite taken off yet…)

And…because of a photo ID snafu, I’m not sure T and I will be able to hop on a plane in two weeks to visit my parents for Thanksgiving. Christmas, perhaps…but Thanksgiving seems increasingly unlikely.

So, naturally, thoughts turned to spending the upcoming holiday with *his* family. Not sure I am mentally prepared for this, but…no time like the present, I guess.

And…because I am my mother’s daughter, I have hatched a harebrained scheme to tie in a trip to Savannah if we drive south. Is that nuts?

My defense:

1. I’ve never been to Savannah and I’ve heard wonderful things about it.

PLUS 2. I graduated from high school in Georgia, so it seems kind of shameful not to have visited Savannah at least once. (Although, in my defense, I only spent three semesters at George Walton Comprehensive High School.)

PLUS 3. We could go to The Lady and Sons! T (and I) love her! And I would love to eat there! (Although I have to be wary of shellfish as he is allergic. But, still! So much good stuff on the menu to try!)

It might involve a bit of intense driving, but we could totally get down there in two days with a day to spend there before heading north again for Thanksgiving.

I think it could be super-fun and memorable and a nice escape from the city, which has not happened much this year. But…I still have to convince T this is a brilliant idea and that we only live once, etc. Which may or may not work.

(It’s not the first time I’ve pulled something like this. When I heard his roommate was driving to Indiana for a wedding over Labor Day weekend, I tried to convince him we needed to hitch a ride and spend the long weekend in Indianapolis. I failed because he had to work…but if he was planning to take time off that week for Thanksgiving anyway…Savannah just might be my $1,000,000 idea.)

Image via three6ohchris/Flickr

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Filed under Brooklyn, cherries, holidays

The Hello Dolly Bar Mystery…

So…I just got back from Arizona/Colorado/New Mexico, where I hung out with my parents and stood in four states at once and saw some ruins and ate a lot…including a new dessert: Hello Dolly Bars.

Long story short, my mother saw a recipe for “Magic Cookie Bars,” which she knew as Hello Dolly Bars from long ago. I asked why they were called Hello Dolly Bars, but she didn’t know. And I made a mental note to look it up when I got home…

As noted, I’m back. So…I did some research…and, basically, I came up with nothing. There are lots of hits for “Hello Dolly Bars,” on blogs…including variations on the recipe — some with butterscotch chips, for example — and several of those blogs question where the name came from (they’re known as Seven Layer Bars and Magic Cookie Bars, too…)…but no one has an explanation. (One of them — which I can’t find now — said that they will become a sticky nightmare in the pan if you don’t use wax paper…which was good to read as I was thinking about skipping the pan-lining step next time…)

I thought maybe one of my cookbooks would have something…but, alas. There’s nothing in the Joy of Cooking. (I wish I had the Cookie Bible…but, sadly, I only have the Cake and Pie and Pastry versions of the Good Word.) And I *thought* I saw something somewhere about Hello Dolly bars as a Southern thing…but Paula Deen doesn’t have anything either.

Epicurious turned up nothing under the “Hello Dolly”- or “Seven Layer Bar”- names. (And here’s what I think the Web-savvy kids call a “white whine”: Epicurious has hands down THE most annoying online ads. If you run your cursor over one of those damn things, these horrible things pop up and it takes WAY TOO LONG to make them go away.) The Food Network has a recipe for Magic Cookie Bars sans explanation..and, apropos of nothing, I find it sort of hilarious that it lists Warm White Bean and Roasted Garlic Dip as a similar recipe.

It’s been SO LONG since I’ve seen Hello, Dolly that I don’t really remember the plot…and I am tempted to add it to my Netflix queue now. (Maybe this is a sign from the universe that I should watch it again and I will rediscover something in it that will change my life forever.) According to Wikipedia, it’s about a meddlesome matchmaker…so maybe Hello Dolly bars are sort of like Rachael Ray’s You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Pasta in that they are so good, you’ll trap yourself a man? Or maybe one of the early bakers really liked to listen to Louis Armstrong while baking? (I don’t think there are any clues in the lyrics…) Or maybe Carol Channing or Barbra Streisand just really like them a lot?  Those are my best guesses.

The recipe (adapted from an online magazine…but I don’t remember which one…but, as noted, the Internet has about a zillion versions of this, so I don’t feel *too* bad for ripping off whatever poor schmucks printed this version):

Hello Dolly (or Magic [or Seven Layer]) Bars

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup oatmeal

1 Tb brown sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (recipe calls for bittersweet, but I think milk works just fine)

1 cup flaked coconut

1 cup pecans (original recipe says to chop them…but I didn’t and I think it turned out just fine)

Preheat oven to 325. Line an 8X8-inch baking pan.

In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, oatmeal, brown sugar and butter; beat well.

Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom of baking pan.

Sprinkle chocolate chips, coconut and pecans on top. Pour over the condensed milk evenly.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until slightly golden on top.

Cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan.

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Filed under blogs, books, brown sugar, cake, chocolate, cookies, Food Network

New York, We Have to Talk…

New York and I have had a good run. For more years than I’d care to admit, we’ve been really happy together.

I’ve had plenty of those Only-in-NY Moments. Take, for example, the homeless guy who peed in an empty bag of potato chips on the E train on my morning commute once. Or the Michael Jackson birthday party in Prospect Park. Stuff like that doesn’t happen anywhere else…and I guess there’s a sort of pride attached to it when you live here and you get to go to those things because you’ve made a conscious decision to be here.

I’ve had my fair share of celebrity sightings: Dianne Wiest, Gabriel Byrne (we live in the same ‘hood — he used to go to Cafe Scaramouche before it became Buttermilk Channel), Debra Messing, Uma Thurman, Steve Buscemi, Chase Crawford, Mario Cantone, and that tall guy from Law & Order SVU. Denny Doherty of the Mamas and the Papas starred in the musical that was performing at the theater where I worked my first summer in New York. And I interviewed the Naked Cowboy once…and had “Hi Lisa, it’s Naked…” on my voicemail for a really long time.

I’ve had some really good times here and I’ve met a lot of wonderful people and I’m so, so glad I did that big, scary thing and moved here by myself all those years ago.

And for a long time — whether because of work or school or my own personal dramas — I’ve sort of been gliding along here. I built myself a home. And for the first time since California circa 1994, I’ve felt like there’s this one place in the world where I belong. And, sure, I hate the uncertainty of freelancing and wish things had turned out differently post-J-school, but…for the most part, I’ve been fine. Sure, it’s a busy place that sucks a lot out of you…and I always looked forward to escaping to Alaska because it’s pretty much the exact opposite of New York in every way and I could actually slow down for a bit and breathe in new surroundings and see places that were untouched by virtually anything and come back feeling like I could face everything again.

No more Alaska though — this year I went to Arizona and New Mexico. The trip had about the same effect, I guess…but returning to New York in July was the first time I haven’t actually been excited about coming back. Usually I can’t wait to get back to my apartment and my life. But I didn’t feel that way this year. And, for the first time, I started noticing things that never bothered me before — it’s dirty; it’s crowded; it’s full of egomaniacs.

Then I went away again — and the same thing happened upon my return. I just don’t feel the same about being here anymore. And somewhere along the way in either Colorado or Illinois on my *next* trip, it hit me: I think I’m ready to leave New York. I’m happier when I’m not here.

And, granted, it’s not exactly reality when I’m away because I don’t have to spend eight, ten, twelve hours in front of a computer writing asset management stories or applying for jobs or pitching freelance ideas or working on the Great American Novel (…or copywriting)…so maybe it isn’t entirely fair to blame unhappiness directly on New York. But, at the same time, I’ve done some freelance work while I’ve been away…and I still think it’s safe to say I’m happier in other places. (A New York friend even observed that I look happier in the photos on Facebook that were taken in other cities…)

Last weekend was my first weekend back in a long time. And I made lasagna and empanadas (which turned out BEAUTIFUL because I watched one of the chefs at Xoco very, very carefully and tried to mimic what she did…). And I realized how happy cooking makes me. (That’s one bad thing about so much traveling — I haven’t really cooked much.) I don’t really have the budget or the appetite to cook every day…but on those days that I do, the act itself always makes me happy…which sort of begs the question of culinary school, but that’s a whole other can of worms I’m not really ready to open yet. (Plus, writing still makes me happier than anything. So, ideally, I’ll be able to forge out a living combining the two someday…)

For now, I’m expanding my job search…and we’ll see what happens. (It’s never a bad thing to have additional options, right?) If I get my dream job in New York, I’ll stay. I’ll put up with insane rent and try to make an agent fall in love with my book proposal and maybe someday I’ll be on The View telling the ladies what a rough spot it was in ’08-’09 before my life really took off.

Or…maybe the reason nothing has worked out here is because I’m not meant to stay. Maybe I should really be somewhere else. (The problem is that my life is in so many places…I don’t know where to go. For a long time I’ve said that I think my wedding will be the only day in my life when everyone I love is actually in the same place. Although I guess the glass-is-half-full spin is that I could really go anywhere. And that got me thinking about how happy I was when I lived in England…and that it’s crazy that I haven’t been back in seven years…so I think a trip to London is imminent.)

The sort of depressing part is that job opportunities didn’t expand exponentially when I started looking across the country. There is a pretty darn good one in Dallas…and a sort of okay one in Denver…but other than that, I really haven’t seen anything. (So…maybe it’ll be culinary school after all, eh?)

Nevertheless, I spent the good part of a morning this week looking at apartments in Dallas and realized that for less than half of what I am paying now, I could get an apartment with an actual bedroom and a dishwasher and a washer/dryer and access to pools and fitness centers and all sorts of crazy stuff. And I could finally get a golden retriever! (I even looked at breeders in Texas and found one that traced the lineage of its puppies on its Web site and the father of a litter that was due last September was related somewhere along the line to a dog named Miss Racey Lacey. Gotta be some sort of sign, right?)

If I was still exceedingly happy in New York…or if I was even taking advantage of living here anymore, I wouldn’t be looking beyond its limits. But I think I’m ready for a change. And now all I have to do is figure out what that actually means.

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Filed under Alaska, appliances, Brooklyn, Mamas and Papas

What do drink way up North…from a proud member of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club.

I have been remiss again! But…allow me to make up for some lost time.

I just flew in from Tucson (by way of Seattle) on Alaska Airlines because my parents have a gazillion frequent flier miles. And flying makes me a little, you know, nervous…so I usually buy trashy celeb magazines to distract myself during takeoff. But at one point during one of the flights, I was actually reading the in-flight magazine…and I came across an ad for a bar in Anchorage called “Darwin’s Theory” and it made me laugh because it says the owner is the world’s biggest seller of cinnamon schnapps *and* that the Anchorage Daily News said it has the best popcorn and the best jukebox in the city.

This, of course, vaguely reminds me of the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, Yukon Territory and its infamous Sourtoe Cocktail. I was thinking — it’s too bad I wasn’t on Facebook when that whole episode took place as the photo of me and the toe would surely turn some heads. It feels a bit like cheating by putting it up now though…as if I am purposely trying to draw attention to myself. But! As I was *just* talking to friends in Seattle about this, I’ll reminisce with you a bit:

I did it with Yukon Jack even though I HATE whiskey because the Health Department declared the booze has to be a certain proof or something. The guy at the Downtown Hotel swore that Yukon Jack was the easiest way to do it…and I protested a bit, but finally relented…and remember thinking he was right and it was actually kind of lemony. Back in New York some time later, I came across Yukon Jack again and got a bit nostalgic…but it just seemed like regular stupid whiskey…and I was kind of puzzled…and my friend said, “Well, I think that maybe last time you were distracted by THE TOE.”

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Filed under Alaska

Other — Gasp — Blogs.

So…I’ve maybe been a little bit unfaithful and have been blogging for other sites…

Namely, The Luxury Spot, where we have my most recent post on soup mix and squatty rolls. (With Australian snacks and vegan hair products to come!)

But also Meata America, where I wrote about my mother’s first pastrami and marinading with condiment packets.

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Filed under Alaska, blogs, entrees

In Which I Attempt to Explain How My Mind Works…

(And perhaps rip off Tumblr a little, tiny bit…)

I was out with somebody once, telling him a story — oftentimes when I’m out and about in the world and I am not feeling shy, I will see something that triggers a memory and launch into a stream-of-consciousness rendition. Not everyone has patience for these verbal meanderings, but those who do tell me it’s sort of the equivalent of having to strap yourself into a speeding car — I always get where I mean to go and it always makes sense when you’re there…it’s just that sometimes it requires a wild ride along the way.

So. Back to that Pittsburgh Steelers bar a couple of years ago (But! I love a good underdog story, so it’s all about the Cardinals this year). I was telling him what I *thought* was a charming anecdote about some wacky thing that happened to me once upon a time…and when I was finished, the guy just sort of looked at me with this mix of awe and wonder and cocked his head and asked, “How does your mind work?”

Well, after all this time, I think I finally have a good example…

I have a friend who is getting married and who asked earlier today if I had gotten the save-the-date. I had not yet. Then I saw there was some chatter online about stuff, so I added my two cents…and I went out to get the mail…and there it was! So I was *going* to add, “I got the save-the-date!” but then I thought that maybe that would be a bad thing to say in a public medium and she’d get mad at me because her wedding is a highly sought-after affair and not everyone can get in. So…*then* I thought, “Ooh! I can abbreviate it!”…until I realized that then I’d be writing, “I got the STD!”

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Filed under football

Juneau Beer, Mexican Thingamajigs, Spice Advice, Unspeakable Cookies, Christmas Eve Empanadas & Potatoes From the Lonestar State

Well…now that the Huffington Post action may have cooled off for a while, I suppose I should return to the blog that bears *my* name.

I just got back from Arizona…where there were plenty of blog-worthy topics.

For one, I was thrilled to find Alaskan Amber at a saloon outside of the Grand Canyon. I admit my love for this beer stems partially from nostalgia…but I haven’t really seen it outside of Alaska (natch) or Seattle, so I was super-excited to find it elsewhere. (Although I was hoping maybe there’d be a place in NY that serves it, too…and found that some guy tried it at the New York, New York Hotel & Casino in Vegas. But, sadly, it appears the stuff isn’t in the actual New York, New York…at least not on tap.)

We also went to a Mexican restaurant in Tucson that served carne seca (“dry meat”)…which tasted a lot like beef jerky (although a quick Google search reveals that a lot of people feel this way and I was in no way insightful). The restaurant was *also* home of the USA Today Chimichanga…which I thought was kind of an amusing name even though it was only because USA Today said it was a really good chimichanga. (And this place in Tucson is also allegedly the home of the chimichanga itself? )

And…this year was exciting because my mother actually asked my advice about pumpkin pie spice! She needed ginger and wanted to know if I thought she could fake it with pumpkin pie spice. (My answer, not surprisingly, was no.) She ended up buying a little baggie of ginger at the grocery store that has good produce…and where a woman offered me a sample of vegan ice cream and I obviously got a little thrill.

We also made the Sweet Potato Queens‘ cat shit cookies. This is one of my mother’s favorite recipes…possibly because it requires no baking. It also yields a hearty cookie that’ll give you a good chocolate fix. Which is probably why the Queens like it, too.

And…instead of more traditional Christmas Eve tamales, I made Christmas Eve empanadas. I couldn’t tell whether my dad actually liked them, but that recipe is still one of my favorites. We used puff pastry instead of empanada dough…so they looked kind of turnover-ish. But my dad’s a big guy (over the 200 pound weight limit and so we couldn’t ride mules into the Grand Canyon!)…so it’s okay that they blew up into these big, huge things in the oven.

We *also* made Texas Potatoes for Christmas…which is one of the dishes in the family recipe book my aunt pulled together a number of Christmases ago…but I’ve never tried. It has always *sounded* really good…so I’m glad I finally got to try them. But…don’t know if it was because my mom used real potatoes instead of frozen hash browns or because she used healthy cream of chicken/mushroom (I think it was chicken) soup…but it wasn’t *quite* as spectaculuar as I had hoped it would be. I mean, it was pretty good…but I didn’t see God.

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Filed under Alaska, blogs, cookies, entrees, holidays