Friday, September 28, 2007

Toji Korean Grill

We went to Toji Korean Grill on SE Hawthorne last night. We decided to go out, and were walking toward Hawthorne when it occured to us to go there. It was a good idea.

Toji is a Korean grill, meaning they fire up a little grill in the middle of your table, and you order raw, marinated meat to char up yourself. We got a value meal of sorts. There were 3 of them, sort of buried under more expensive options. Ours was the medium size. It came with tofu/seafood soup, grilled tofu patties, and 6 pork pot stickers for appetizers. The soup was good, albeit somewhat fishy if you're not into that. The grilled tofu was, unsurprisingly, a little bland. But if you like tofu, you'll like this. It came with three dipping sauces: sesame oil, a sweet teriyaki, and a plum sauce. I liked it just fine. The pot stickers were steamed, not fried. I thought they were pleasantly gingery, but not overpowering.

The meal came with a bevy of pickled Korean delights. I'll try to list all of them... Kim Chi, which you will never convince me is good. Also: a tasty but spicy spinach/red pepper mix, pickled sprouts, fish stick thingies, garlic and jalapenos, green beans, soft tofu, and bean paste. I think there were a few others too. These small dishes really complement the main dish.

Speaking of which, we really enjoyed our marinated, thin sliced ribeye. Our plate was full of meat, with two slabs of onion and a couple mushroom caps to grill alongside them. We let everything barbeque to varying degrees of done... wrapped the meat up with rice inside big leaves of lettuce, and added some of those other foods, to make tasty little wraps. As I said, we ordered the medium size, but could have easily gotten by on the small. We also got some nice Japanese beer, Kirin Ichiban, to drink.

Overall, I really like the experience at Toji. It's fun to grill up your own meat, and the splendor of all the dishes of food makes dinner seem like a big deal. The main drawback for me is that I'm only so-so on some of the flavors prevalent in Korean food. I don't care for Kim Chi, no matter how many times I try it. This restaurant is a once every six months kind of place.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Nerding it Up

The wife and I have had about the dorkiest week in human history. We watched the first two "Lord of the Rings" movies this week (extended editions of course), and plan on watching the third one soon, possibly tonight. But that's not the worst part.

Last night, and on Sunday, we stayed up way too late playing the game of Risk. If you're unfamiliar, Risk is a classic board game in which the sole purpose is to take over the world. You get armies and roll dice to have battles with other players. We got it as a gift at our wedding. It's really fun. However, we spent hours playing this dorky game. Last night, we didn't even finish. My little sister played, too, and we put the game on hold after we knocked her out. I also find it really amusing that children all over the country are playing this game, learning how to be little Hitlers. Or "Lit'lers" as I call them.

I rate the game Risk: Ten armies, tradeable for a ten army piece (cool inside Risk reference).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Self Check-Out

My local grocery store, Fred Meyer, has those fancy self check-out units. There are approximately 16 of these, manned by either one or two employees, depending how busy it is. I was there last night with my friend Mike, and I told him how much I enjoyed using the self-serve units. Here's part of the reason why: It makes me glad I finished college. I realize that makes me an elitist bastard, but I'm really glad I am able to make a living doing something I think is worthwhile, not doing something soul-crushing like working as a grocery store checker. I had a terrible job with the phone company inbetween my stints in college, and that really forced me to realize that most non-professional jobs are craptastic. I realize that's a generalization, but it's one I think is true.

One other note on self-serve units:
The only reason stores install these things is to save money. They can put one checker in charge of a dozen checkstands, instead of a 1:1 ratio. However, they don't lower the cost of groceries accordingly. So I've hatched an ingenious plan to get revenge. When you buy produce on one of these, you have to enter the numeric code corresponding to that kind of fruit or vegetable, then the computer weighs it and charges you. I say fuck that. No matter what I'm buying (the more expensive the better), I enter the code for yellow onions. I think that's about the cheapest veggie you can get. Last night I got 3 avocados (suggested price: $1 each) for a grand total of .90 cents. I realize it's only a few pennies at a time, but in that way I get my discount while Fred Meyer gets theirs. The checker is always too busy manning all those checkstands to notice what I'm doing. It's a perfect plan.

Self-Serve Checkstands: I give them one suffocating plastic grocery bag.
My Produce Plan: I give that 5 reusable canvas grocery bags, the kind you can use over and over again.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Godfather

The wife and I have been insisting that we sit down and watch our favorite trilogies. For her, it's the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings. For me, it's the Godfather. This weekend, we began the long, arduous process of watching both. We watched the Fellowship of the Ring on Friday, and the first Godfather on Saturday. I'll leave the Lord of the Rings review for her. I'll focus on The Godfather.

I've seen this movie probably 15 times or so, and every time I'm struck by how great it is. I realize I'm not treading any new ground here as a critic, but I'll be damned if it isn't true. One of the things that constantly gets me about this movie is the fact that 90% of the movie is a couple of guys sitting and talking. But at no point do I ever wish something actioney would happen. The dialogue always feels true, and I'm always interested in what they're saying.

I can't believe the producers wanted to fire Al Pacino. It's unbelievable that anyone could see him in the first scene, the wedding, and not think he was Michael Corleone. His description of who Luca Brazzi is to Kay is fucking brilliant. You can see him straddling the line between resignation as to who is his family, and judgment of it. Then the quick turn to playful, asking Kay how she likes her lasagna. And by the end, how can you doubt that he IS Michael Corleone. When he volunteers to kill McCluskey and Solazzo, geez... the fucking icewater in his veins.

John Cazale was born to play Fredo. A fantastic performance, in the second biggest sadsack role of all time. That one guy in Death of a Salesman (Biff? Willy?) is number one. This blog is really no good. Let's just say I like the movie, although I can never decide which Godfather I like the best, 1 or 2. I'll leave the third one out of the argument.

A few other rambling notes:
- I hate Diane Keaton with a vengeance, but she's pretty good in this movie.
- I'm pretty sure Robert Duvall and Marlon Brando were about the same age when they shot this.
- I heard Brando really scared the shit out of that kid when they filmed his death scene.
- I still use the marinara recipe that Clemenza gives: Fried Garlic in olive oil, stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, a little wine, your meat, and a little sugar.
- Leave the gun, take the canolis.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Another Culinary Adventure: Scallop Pasta

This one turned out really well. I still plan on reviewing those things I promised earlier, but I'm in the mood to do this one instead. Last night we continued our culinary adventuring with a recipe that the wife found, and we improved together. I'm not used to writing recipes, so follow this one as best you can.
1. Cook your favorite pasta.

2. In one sautee pan, fry up several cloves of garlic. Cook them until they're brown, then remove the cloves to mash over bread. Save the oil in the pan, now that it's all garlicky.

3. In another, larger sautee pan, sear your bay scallops over medium heat with olive oil. We used about 3/4 of a pound for the two of us, which was a few too many. Get them nice and toasty on both sides.

4. In the same oil you just sauteed your garlic, fry up your veggies. We used finely chopped spinach, mushrooms, and chopped fresh basil. Cook them to taste. Remember with spinach that it will always wilt, so put in at least twice as much as you think you might want.

5. When your veggies are close to done, dump in a healthy helping of fresh chopped tomatoes.

6. When your veggies, scallops, and noodles are all done, dump them into the same pan you're cooking the scallops. Toss them together, adding salt, parmesan cheese, and more olive oil to taste.

7. Try to remove the reek of garlic and fish from your house. Good luck.

8. Evacuate your bowels.

9. Repeat.

I give this recipe six green, red, and white flags. I dare you to try it!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mango Pork

Taking a detour from my planned route... I'm rating a recipe we tried last night. Not so much a recipe, but a winged culinary concoction. The wife went grocery shopping, and found banana leaves at the store. Naturally she bought a pack. Last night we made mango pork with them. For the uninitiated, banana leaves are traditionally used in Thai, Filipino, and other Asian cooking to keep meat moist. It's sort of like wrapping meat in tin foil. We had never used them before, but it's pretty easy.

In this recipe, we used pork chops (because our local grocery store only carries family packs of chicken, which is like 2 dozen breasts). We chopped up Walla Walla sweet onions, red peppers, and mangoes, then mixed those chunks with rum and mango juice. We spooned out a healthy heaping of that mixture one on banana leaf, put the pork chop on top, then put larger chunks of the veggies and fruit on top of that. Then, we wrapped one banana leaf around the food, then used another leaf going the other way. We used wooden skewers to pin the corners of the leaves closed, then baked the meat at 350 degrees. After about 40 minutes, I checked one of the packages. It was still undercooked. So we turned the heat up to 400, and left them in for another 15 minutes or so. The one I unwrapped was good, but the one whose seal was unbroken was much more moist.

I'd really recommend trying to make something with banana leaves. They give a flavor to the food you won't get with foil. Next time we'll maybe try to make a light curry or something with chicken or fish. Anybody else tried cooking with leaves?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Office, Season 3

On the first week of our honeymoon, the wife and I took some redundant wedding gifts back to Target, to get the stuff we didn't get but still need. We also had a couple of gift cards. So after we picked out our new plates and stuff, we decided to get the third season of The Office on dvd. We missed a couple of episodes when it originally aired, and we had a week to kill before the cruise.

I gotta tell you, this season is fucking great. It seems like when series add new characters, it's either an interesting new wrinkle that takes the show to the next level... or it's the kiss of death. In this case, the new characters add wonderful new dimensions. The addition of Andy is a miracle. He actually makes Michael seem sympathetic. Ed Helms is just the latest talented "Daily Show" expatriate to make his mark. It's also interesting that the show managed to give Dwight another nemesis, who is still completely different than Jim. Speaking of Jim... I'm kind of torn on his new girlfriend. Karen, while necessary to create more tension with Pam (and put off their inevitable relationship), seems less like a character than a plot device. I also feel like at times she's a little bit too close to Pam as a character. They both have wry senses of humor and they're both always in on the joke. As the episodes go on, you can see how Karen is a bit more neurotic in her own way, and other differences surface as well. Overall I like her, but I wish she had been written to be more distinguishable from Pam.

I really enjoy the two crises the characters face this season. First: the possible dissolution of the Scranton office. I like that it gave Michael a nice moment of glory, in addition to the obvious plot tension. Second: the "who's going to get the corporate job" fight. If you haven't seen it, I won't give it away, but I can't wait to see the relationship in season 4 between Michael and his new boss.

Favorite Episode: "The Convict" The office discovers one of the new Stamford employees has a criminal record. Two words best sum up the genius of this episode: "Prison Mike."

Least Favorite Episode: "Cocktails" Michael and Jan go to a Dunder-Mifflin corporate event as a couple for the first time. It has moments, but ultimately it's just too uncomfortable. I realize that's half the humor in the show, but this one just rubs me the wrong way.

Rating: 10 Dwight Shrute bobbleheads... all nodding YES!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Honeymoon Over

So, dear readers, it's been a bit since I last posted. As you may recall, I got married and went on my honeymoon. The wife and I took a week off to recover from the wedding, went to the Caribbean. In the next few days, I plan on rating several things I experienced. Here's a partial list:

1.) Princess Cruises
2.) A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
3.) The Road by Cormac McCarthy
4.) "The Office, Season 3" on DVD

I hope you'll come back and take a look. I'm back at work now after 2 1/2 weeks off, so I'm hoping to post everyday after my shift is over. I'll begin my reviews again tomorrow.

Your hero,
Max Power

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Guess Who Got Married?

That's right. Some fillie managed to nail down me, Max Power. It only took nearly 9 years of dating. That's why I haven't posted anything lately. I've been a bit busy glad-handing all the relatives and eating. I've gained approximately 5 pounds in the last week and a half, and we still have the cruise ahead of us! This week we're honeymooning at home, putting away all the gifts we got and deciding which of our old things to get rid of. We're going to have a big yard sale in a couple of weeks, and hopefully it can defray the cost of our honeymoon cruise just a bit.

The wedding was fantastic. I was a little nervous, but not too bad. Nothing went wrong, which is half of what makes a successful wedding. I gave the groomsmen flasks with their first initial on them. The flasks have little shot cups built into the center. I filled them with whiskey, and we all took a belt before leaving for the wedding. The ceremony was nice, with no Jesus talk. That may have disappointed my grandmother, but it was nice for us. Afterwards, we had a fantastic reception. I've never seen so many people dance at a wedding, and I was stunned by how many relatives of mine were dancing. They're all from South Dakota, and I never would have guessed they would party their asses off. Even my little nephew was going nuts. Here's a picture taken by my dad:

The wife's dad had to pay the DJ to keep going at 10 because so many people were still dancing. A lot of other things happened, too, including a chance to see a bunch of friends we don't see often enough. But I'll save the other details for later.

I rate this wedding: 6 wedding cakes and one dancing 8-year-old.