Thursday, November 29, 2007

Book Review: Garlic & Sapphires

Garlic & Sapphires - The Secret Life of a Restaurant Critic in Disguise
Ruth Reichl

Mel recently loaned me this book, saying it was a brilliant read. I have to agree.

I can admit, I've never heard of Ruth Reichl before in my life. And I will, in all likelihood, forget her name before another week passes (I am truly hopeless with names). But I will remember this book for a VERY long time.

Ruth was the New York Times food critic back in the 90s who resorted to wearing disguises to avoid being recognised in the restaurants so that she could experience the "average" person's dining event.
Her writing style is warm, engaging, witty, and humourous. Be warned: if you start reading this book it is entirely likely that other parts of your life will grind to a halt until you finish the last page. You will also find yourself laughing out loud in parts, and grinning happily in others, which will make other public transport patrons look at you oddly. But you simply can't help it: as she recounts her adventures as Brenda, Holly, Chloe et al. you can just picture it all happening. And don't get me started on her descriptions of the food... I've never been a sashimi fan, however after just one paragraph where she describes what must surely be some of the most divine sashimi on the planet, I found myself almost able to taste and feel the food and, dammit, I wanted some! So, before Christmas I am going to taste at least three different types of sashimi. But I digress.

Several of her favoured recipes are also dotted throughout the book (thankfully there is an index at the end to help you find them again), and I have scribbled many of them down to try at some point.

Other books to Ruth's credit are Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples, both of which I can't wait to find and read.

Thanks again Mel, I enjoyed this book SO much, it really brightened the end of my week (alas, because I could barely put it down I read it in a little over a day).

I give it 4.5/5

Monday, November 26, 2007

*THAT* Was Cycle LIGHT?!?!

Well, I attended by first Cycle class tonight EVER (Cycle is sometimes known "Spin"). My gym offers a class on Monday nights called "Cycle Light" - a 25 minute class for cycle beginners. All I have to say is... people do that for 45 minutes?!?! THE FREAKS!!

I was all red in the face, covered in sweat, and MY BUTT IS NOW KILLING ME!! But, despite all that, I'm planning to go the the class next Monday as well. It can only get easier!

Wednesday I have a day off, so will be attempting the Butt+ class. I figure I have 1+ butt-worth of butt, so Butt+ should be a good one!

I haven't updated on the gym thing in a while. I'm into a regular program now, which has unfortunately been a bit interrupted in the last few months by illness.

BUT, weight loss has continued, blood pressure improvement has continued, strength has increased, the benefits are still rolling in.

AND kilo's are still coming off, albeit slowly.

AND I bought a new dress last week... in a size lower than the last dress I bought for myself!

So, things are going REALLY well. Wonder if mum will notice the difference when I see her (less than four weeks now till then)...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Yoghurt Cake - Revisited!

You may remember, back in May I blogged a fantastically easy recipe for a yoghurt cake. At the time I made cupcakes from the mixture. This time I wanted to try making the one big one, as a birthday present of sorts.

But, me being me, I felt I needed to do a test run first, just to make sure the chances of getting it right when it mattered were maximised. So I did it all... sift the dry stuff, whisk the wet stuff, combine it all, mix it up well, throw it in the tin and bake it for the hour. The results - not bad at all! I threw some lemon icing on it instead of the lemon syrup and took it in to work on Sunday - not even crumbs remained when work finished. Although you REALLY do need to use a very deep cake tin: I used my regular one, didn't pour all of the batter in, and still had an overflow!

BTW: that leftover cake mix makes some of the most FANTASTIC light and fluffy pancakes I've had:

So yesterday afternoon I prepared to do it all again. This time I used what I call my 'christmas cake' tin (you know, round and deep enough to bath a baby in). Perfect! AND... I decided to go the whole way and try for the lemon syrup too.

The finished product. A little plume of mix cracked through the top in the last 15 minutes of baking, but I like to think this makes it 'decorative', hehe. The lemon syrup was lovely - I heartily recommend making it. AND any leftover syrup is really nice cold and served on top of creamy vanilla ice cream with some chopped pistachios. Or on pancakes. Mmmm pancakes....

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Killers

I've heard some people say that The Killers have given some disappointing performances on their tour.

If that's the case, then they have certainly improved out of sight!

Last night marked their final performance of their current tour, and it was fantastic. I missed the first supporting act, however the Howling Bells were incredibly good, and I'll be looking out for their album.

Normally the antics of the crowd don't amuse me much, but for just a few moments there was the most amazing sight: in the seats to the left of the stage the old Mexican Wave was started up. After a few faltering tries we all got into the spirit of things and it flowed smoothly around the stadium until it hit the right-side of the stage. Left started again, around to right... and then the mosh-pit joined in! Now I've always thought the Mexican Wave is a bit, well, silly, but it really did look awesome rippling around the stadium, then across the front of the stage to start again. We all did it twice, then the allure wore off. Still, points to the die-hards to the left of the stage who kept trying to revive it.

Then: the main act. Suspense was built: images from their Sam's Town album were played over a swathe of gauzy white material in front of the stage... the music gathered momentum with a stomach-shuddering intensity, the crowd was cheering, and then... MOVEMENT BEHIND THE CURTAIN! The noise from the crowd reached a nigh-unbearable level and then BOOM! The curtain dropped, the mosh pit was showered with sparkliness, and the show was underway.

It truly was brilliant, a mix of old and new stuff, with everyone's favourites getting a hearing. The show opened, quite appropriately, with the title track: Sam's Town, a big, loud, head-bopping, rhythm thumping, guitar-slaying glory of a song. And you should have heard the roar when old favourites Jenny Was A Friend of Mine, Somebody Told Me, and Mr Brightside were played.

Brandon will never make a career as a dancer, but his energy is amazing - I don't think I saw him stand still for longer than about two seconds, even when he was at the keyboard. The two guitarists faded somewhat into the scenery, not really drawing too much attention to themselves (or maybe they did, and I didn't see*) but, as a fan of drummers, I was glad to see Ronnie stand up (quite literally) and get a bit of attention from the audience.

I'd love to see these guys again in another couple of years to see how much they've improved again, providing I can afford whatever they charge if/when they come back and are hugely successful. To see this show was about $84, which works out to $21 per band member. Less if you include the guy at the back of the stage playing additional guitar and keyboards. And even less again if you include the supporting act I caught (I hope you follow my thinking - I'm dividing the ticket price up to see what I paid roughly per person I saw perform). In my opinion, it was well worth the cost. But here's where female logic comes in - regardless of the number of people in the group, I really hate paying more than $100 for a concert. Bon Jovi is coming early next year, tickets $130. Damn I hope I find some moolah stashed away somewhere so I can go. I saw them about 11 years ago, I think, up in Brisbane, and they were brilliant: it'd be nice to see 'em again...

* There's a good reason I may not have seen. Indulge me for just a moment to send out a message to the girl in the upper section, row FF, seat 263: your ass is neither as tiny, cute, perky, nor see-through as you seem to think. Also, "muffin-top" is not a good look: hipster/low-rider jeans are a privilege, not a right (thanks Mel for giving me that little quote).