Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Two Loves: Books and (of course) Food

This past weekend J and I did the most we had ever done here, which could have all been one day if we were back home, but we’ve become slow and old. On Friday night I asked him to go to Books and Books with me. It’s a local bookstore, a small chain with a couple of locations (including one at an airport). It seemed pretty cool, but there wasn’t really a place to sit unless you bought food/drinks, which is a bit discouraging. (At least, this if from what I can tell, I felt a bit out of place and walked around cautiously.) For being a small location, they have a great selection of books. The building is very cute and the atmosphere is interesting. There were a lot of older people. J and I live in an older neighborhood and even the people “our age” here are closer to 30-35. There were some musicians playing outside in a courtyard for people at tables.

There wasn’t actually a lot of book-browsing going on, now that I think of it. The children’s section is pretty small, but it has some good books. Books and Books attracts a lot of authors and there were many illustrations by famous authors and artists. I enjoyed looking at those more than anything else at the store. J showed me an empty spot on the wall and he said, “Look, they are reserving a spot for you.” Oh, how I wish. I saw a book I now love: The Duchess of Whimsy. The illustrations are beautiful, the story is so sweet, and it even has grilled cheese in it! I wish I had written the book.

On Saturday we decided to try out the Farmer’s Market. I know Madison has a wonderful, organized market, and I didn’t have too high of expectations. But the Coconut Grove Farmer’s Market was… Well, we aren’t going back. I felt a little nervous in the neighborhood. There are some gorgeous parts of Coconut Grove, and there are some dangerous parts. I had a feeling we were closer to that latter and I wanted to leave as soon as I got there. The market was on an empty lot in a neighborhood off of a busy street. Unlike the Madison market with many vendors, it was one big, almost corporate, vendor. That turned me off. They had a lot of produce, but very few customers. There were, maybe, five other vendors selling house plants, tea, used clothes, and food? Not sure. We walked around for five minutes, looked at some weird produce, and left. Oh, the things I would have done for spicy cheesy bread, fall air, and milling Madisionians at that moment!

We then headed to Sam’s Club. Not much to report other than it was way busier than the ones at home and I don’t want to go back. J told me that I shouldn’t even think of going to Wal-Mart down here… I never really did back in Wisconsin, but it was a cheaper option than Target in some regards, so I would make an occasional stop. I think all Wal-Marts are busy, but the fear in J’s eyes told me he wasn’t going to go again. He had two words to say and “cluster” was the start of them. I’ll take his word for it, if it is anything like traffic here, or like Sam’s Club, you can count me out. The grocery stores here are bad enough.

We wanted to do something to celebrate J turning 24. We had gone to a wonderful, fancy restaurant for my birthday and he wanted to keep it simple. We went to this place called OneBurger. Their headquarters are in Asia. I’m sure the burgers are fine to Miami standards. They have a good selection of “gourmet” burgers. The spicy fries were yummy as were the shakes, but we bit into the burgers and just looked at each other. We’ve grown up on greasy, diner, Midwestern burger goodness from joints like Oscars, Kopp’s, The Nite Owl, and even Culver’s. I don’t want dry burger. We made a pact to try out Shake Shake on South Beach this weekend. It claims to be NYC style food and I saw it on Unique Eats (Cooking Channel). Their first location is in Madison Square Garden and people line up for an hour to get those burgers… so it’s gotta be good, right? AND they have custard shakes which leads me to believe that they may actually serve FROZEN CUSTARD. Drool.

On J’s actual birthday I gave him the gift of food and silence. His work load has picked up and this week he had a presentation and a final exam, so I thought the best thing I could do would be to make sure he is full and that he can get work done at home. He liked the pork tenderloin that I had made so much that he requested that (and we had another one because Winn-Dixie had a buy one get one deal). So I made the marinated pork tenderloin, sautéed mushrooms, spinach salad with tomato and fresh mozzarella, a fresh veggie platter with cucumbers, red peppers, and carrots, and for desert we had brownies and ice cream. I decided to get creative with the brownies. I still have a pan of my failed fudge, so I put some goopy chunks of that in the brownie batter. It worked out perfectly. The brownies were the perfect warm, gooey, chocolaty goodness that paired well with the French Vanilla ice cream. Way better than cake and ice cream. I still have over half of a pan of failed fudge, so I will have to do it again. I took pictures and wanted to post them online, but something between my camera and computer is not working. My computer’s camera stopped working too, so I think it’s slowly dying. I intend to get the pictures up eventually.

This week has been pretty slow with jobs. I find new websites to apply to and then realize that I’ve already applied to the job! Oh well. I am confident that something will happen soon. In the meantime, I’ve been reading. I just finished The Cookbook Collector. It’s less about food than you think it is. It’s about books, business, philosophy, the late ‘90s, and then food. I liked it. I got another cheap book for my Kindle (love, love, love that thing) and I’ll be busy with that one too. In the meantime, I’ll keep chipping away at this whole employment thing.

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