Christopher Pratt (cpratt) wrote,
Christopher Pratt
cpratt

OK, enough God damned quizzes already.

1. It's been a long day at the office. What's for dinner?
 
Spaghetti and meatballs (8 points) 2
 
Frozen pizza (10 points) 3
 
Nasi goreng (2 points) 5
 
Roast lamb and veggies (4 points) 3
 
Shepherd's pie (6 points) 5
 


After a long day at the office, the last thing I want to do is cook something that take a lot of time and effort. I do all of the cooking at Salmonberg, so if I'm not feeling like it, there's no one else to turn to. [Dan does make a killer pot of tea, but he's not one to whip up dinner in a pinch.]

Therefore, if it's been a really long day at the office, it's all about frozen pizza. Turn on the oven, go downstairs, check E-mail, go back upstairs, put pizza in oven, wait. Cost: about $3. Ease: as easy as it gets, cold cereal notwithstanding. Ingredients: whatever frozen pizza was on sale at Albertson's or Safeway. I'm partial to Freschetta but always buy what's on sale. Cheapskate!

The other choices are weighted in order of difficulty to prepare. Spaghetti and meatballs is really, really easy: just put eight frozen meatballs in a saucepan, add one can of marinara sauce. Place on stove, turn stove to 2, leave alone. Start boiling a few quarts of water. By the time it boils, add pasta, cook pasta, drain, serve [the sauce should be hot by now and the meatballs thawed]. Add parmesan for that "home cooked" look. Total cost: $4. Ingredients: Trader Joe's meatballs, Trader Joe's canned marinara sauce, Trader Joe's pasta, Trader Joe's parmesan-romano cheese blend.

Shepherd's pie: Easy, but usually means a trip to the store for fresh ground beef and carrots, which means this is less likely to happen after a long day at the office. Start by turning on the oven. Make 10 servings instant mashed potatoes; set aside. Using the chef's pan, brown ground beef with lots of onion. Add sliced carrots and frozen peas along with a packet of shepherd's pie mix and some water. Drain the grease from the pan; spread potatoes on top of everything else. Bung it in the oven for thirty minutes. [I've tried this with mushrooms and it was emphatically not good - too brown to be enjoyable. The peas really make the dish.] Total cost: about $6.

Roast lamb and veggies: This is expensive - and it means you have to defrost the lamb earlier on or remember to get some fresh lamb earlier in the week. If you want good veggies, that also involves planning ahead - canned beets are OK, but my favorite veggies all involve actual fresh veggies. Defrost the Trader Joe's seasoned lamb overnight. When you get home, turn on the oven. When it's hot, bung the lamb in the oven and leave it there for an hour. In the meantime, figure out what veggies you're doing. My favorite: Put 1 package Trader Joe's French haricots verts in the steamer and set it to 12 minutes or so. Fry an onion [shallots are prettier but they cost too much, alas] along with a clove of garlic until transparent. Add a package of Trader Joe's fresh mushrooms and cook. Add the beans plus salt and pepper; heat until tasty. Serve with the lamb. Cost: about $12, but you always get plenty to serve a second time later in the week. Other veggies I adore: fresh Brussels sprouts, fresh beets, squash. Takes extra effort to find and cook squash, though.

Nasi goreng: This is a pain in the ass to make and expensive. As a result, I don't really enjoy doing so. To start, you'll need to make some rice. Decent quality Japanese style rice seems to work best; cheap short grain rice makes for some pretty sorry nasi. Brown rice doesn't work; basmati smells funny, jasmine smells funny too. You'll want to use my shiny National fuzzy logic rice cooker, which makes great rice - however, it also takes over an hour, further adding to the frustration of this project. When it's done, turn off the rice cooker and allow it to cool down. Now's when the fun begins: Even though I've made this many times before, it's still kind of unclear exactly how best to go about making nasi goreng. It usually involves ground pork, Canadian bacon, leeks, onions, an egg or two, sweet ketjap, sambal oelek, and any of a number of mystery Dutch instant mixes, almost none of which seem to work very well. [The one I like is hard to find and I don't have any of it at the moment, alas.] The big frustration here is that Canadian bacon is expensive - but it's the leeks that'll bust your budget. They're cheap in Holland, but they cost more than meat out West. Anyhow, you perform various exorcisms with all of the ingredients, hope you didn't overdo the sambal and/or underdo the ketjap, and hopefully you have a tasty dish as a result. As Dan can certify, I've made nasi that runs to both ends of the spectrum; last month's attempt was one of the worst, but at least I've now got some ketjap and sambal to try again. Thanks to Brian and Chris for agreeing to a Dutch grocery store trip after the Heineken Experience last month!

2. What's my favorite tea?
 

Yorkshire tea (9 points) 2
 
Ostfriesentee (10 points) 2
 
Ostrfriesen-Sonntagstee (8 points) 9
 
Yunnan (6 points) 1
 
Assam (5 points) 4
 

Good guessing on everyone's part here. My favorite teas are strong, black, and relatively straightforward. My favorite of all is Ostfriesentee, which is drunk in East Frisia in the far northwest corner of Germany - they're the biggest per capita consumers of tea in the world. Traditionally, they drink it with heavy cream and rock sugar, which is pretty close to the way I like my tea: with a good slug of milk and sugar. It's strong enough not to wuss out with all the adulteration.

The Sonntagstee variant includes bits of Bourbon vanilla, which is also fantastic, but it's just a bit too much for daily drinking. Besides, Dan doesn't like the stuff, so it's kind of a waste. However, it is tasty - even if it's four times the price of the ordinary stuff.

Yorkshire tea is as close to Ostfriesentee as I can find in the UK. It's really, really good stuff and it's nearly half the price of the German equivalents, which is wonderful. The simple red can is the best, not the pricier gold can. Of all the English teas I've tried, this is my favorite.

Yunnan is really good stuff but it's kind of a one note wonder. It gets annoying after a few pots. Finally, Assam is one of the major constituents of Ostfriesentee blends, but anything labeled Assam is usually too refined to hold up to the milk and sugar onslaught. As a result, it's disappointing, but it's still loads better than anything from the supermarket.

3. What's a good wine for a hot summer day?
 

Bonny Doon Pac Rim Riesling (8 points) 7
 
Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare (9 points) 1
 
Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc (10 points) 3
 
Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay (0 points) 3
 
Segura Viudas cava [any kind] (7 points) 4
 

New Zealand sauvignon blanc wins the day here - it's so searingly acidic, light, and ethereal. Best keep it in an ice bucket outside on the side porch, watching the sun go down around 10 PM. When it's really good - and Kim Crawford's is really good - it's still no Sancerre, but it sure is tasty. Alternatively, I am a big fan of pink wine, so the vin gris goes down a treat as well. The riesling is a great choice as well, although it's perhaps too complicated to be well suited for outdoors high temperature guzzling. Cava would seem to be a good choice as well, but I never did particularly care for sparkling wines in the hot outdoors. I'd rather be indoors where it's cool - and where I can take my time drinking and enjoying it.

Finally, to anyone who said K-J chardonnay: uh, no. There are plenty of good reasons to drink that stuff [e.g. impressing other yuppies] but it's not for me. I'll pass, thanks.

4. What instrument do I play best?
 

Bass (6 points) 2
 
Piano (10 points) 6
 
Saxophone (9 points) 6
 
French horn (1 points) 1
 
Hammered dulcimer (0 points) 3
 

Right off the bat I should point out that I'm not even sure what a hammered dulcimer looks like. I imagine it's something you'd see at a Ren Fayre. I once attempted to learn how to play French horn back in elementary school - but it proved to be completely impossible. I couldn't figure out how to do that secret French horn lip trick for the life of me.

Everything else I probably still can play, even if I haven't done so in a while. The problem with bass is that I have wretched coordination - as a result, I'm not so good at it. It's just too hard. Piano and saxophone on the other hand seem pretty easy - they're a lot like typing in terms of what you're doing with your hands. Either a key is pressed or it's not; it's not like a stringed instrument where you have to worry about how hard you're pressing, basically.

5. Where have I spent the most time outside of the USA?
 

Australia (8 points) 4
 
Germany (10 points) 12
 
The Netherlands (1 points) 2
 
Switzerland (6 points) 0
 
Yugoslavia (0 points) 0
 

I spent 2 years in Germany - 1985-86 and 1989-1990. Looks like most folks knew this about me. I also spent most of 2002 in Australia, back when the US dollar was worth something, thank God. However, what is probably not well known is that I worked in Switzerland for three months in 1988. I've also spent a couple of weeks in Amsterdam over the years - hence the 1 point for that answer. I have never been to Yugoslavia, though.

6. What games can I kick your ass at?
 
Set (4 points) 1
 
Kung Fu Chaos (6 points) 0
 
Trivial Pursuit (8 points) 4
 
Yahtzee (0 points) 2
 
Cultural reference oneupmanship (10 points) 11
 

I should preface this with a disclaimer: Compared to Sean Abley, Dave Cobb, Matthew Keller, and Vincent Lopez, I'm pretty weak at the cultural reference game. However, I'm still pretty good at it, considering. I'm actually better at Trivial Pursuit - well, I would be if there weren't a sports category, to which my only answer ever seems to be "Vida Blue." I am in fact pretty good at Kung Fu Chaos; Set I'm OK at, but I always lose to Jason Havard. I am a terrible Yahtzee! player; as with any mostly aleatoric game, my impulse is simply to throw up my hands and let everyone else win.

7. What music did I listen to most in the last year?
 
Max Tundra (10 points) 5
 
Daft Punk (4 points) 3
 
Pet Shop Boys (0 points) 3
 
Melvins (4 points) 4
 
Atom™ (8 points) 3
 

Yes, Max Tundra. Mastered By Guy At The Exchange is still in my car's CD changer. Everything else came and went over the last year. There was a month or two of solid Atom-listening, and a recent bout of Daft Punk and Melvins. However, the PSB have pretty much fallen off of my radar at this point in their career. I mean, feh. That last album sucked - although I suppose I should give them some credit for it not being nearly as bad as Nightlife.

8. What's the best restaurant in the Bay Area?
 
Walzwerk, SF (10 points) 7
 
Hunan Taste, San Jose (5 points) 3
 
Intermezzo, Berkeley (9 points) 3
 
The St. James Infirmary, Mountain View (1 point) 2
 
Plearn Thai Cuisine, Berkeley (8 points) 3
 

You bet it's Walzwerk! Great food, good prices, really cool owners. I'm crushed that I haven't eaten there in perhaps two years. I'm also a huge fan of Intermezzo, home of the impossibly large salad that you could never, ever dream of eating in one sitting. I still dream about their poppy seed dressing up here in Salmonberg. And when I go get Thai food almost anywhere else in the world, I'm disappointed that it's not as good as Plearn. Damn, the world's filled with bad Thai food [although a special place in Hell must surely be reserved for the so-called Thai food that lurks in most Australian suburbs]. Hunan Taste is not exactly great food, but I love eating there, principally because it was the closest to a local haunt we ever had living in San José. [If you want good Hunan food, might as well stick to Brandy Ho's in San Francisco!] Finally, the St. James Infirmary is a ringer: it burned down back in 1995 or so. It was fun while it lasted, though: I loved the décor and the Jif burger.

9. My most annoying habit?
 

Graping it (1 points) 3
 
Leaving fingernail clippings on the floor (10 points) 3
 
Not showering every day (7 points) 4
 
Hogging the Pantene (5 points) 3
 
Getting crazy with the Cheez Whiz (0 points) 5
 
 

Yeah, I leave my fingernail clippings on the floor. I do apologize for that; it's gross. I also don't shower every day; I swear it's really because I'm so environmentally conscious that I try not to reduce the planet's resources through excessive hot water usage. [I keed! It's because I'm lazy.] Although I don't actually own any Pantene, I am amused enough by that answer to award five points. Similarly, although I never intentionally grape it, I will give you one point for recognizing that as a slightly possible answer. No points, though, if you mistook a Beck reference for something I actually do - which most respondents did in fact do. Hm.

10. Most valued possession?
 

Bottle of Penfolds Grange (1 point) 0
 
My ass (1 point) 2
 
That Aboriginal painting (2 points) 4
 
My personal relationship with Jesus (0 points) 0
 
My friends (10 points) 12
 

Easy. Not that I "possess" my friends or anything - but knowing them is that single best thing about my life hands down. Everything else is pretty much gravy. Yes, the painting is probably the most expensive thing I own, but it's just a thing.

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  • It's July 2013.

    Remember when I wrote a lot on LiveJournal? Yeah, me neither.

  • Steve

    I'm not surprised by Jobs' death, and of course my inner cynic wants to blame homeopathy or whatever the hell it was he was into; an anecdote that…

  • Wein Keller

    It took ten days to clear Canadian customs and make it to San Diego, but Dan just installed the replacement thermostat for our crappy wine cabinet…