February 2010


With the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics coming to a close, I thought this would be a good opportunity for us to take a look over the past two weeks. I know, the Olympics aren’t done yet, but I’m due for a blog post. Cut me some slack!

Let’s start with the good:

1.) Bode Miller Wins Gold
My love of all things Bode is well documented. I was so happy to see him win bronze and silver this Olympics, but seeing him take the gold really was something else. He was much calmer and less abrasive with the press this time around, but still held onto his trademark devil-may-care attitude. For all the criticism he takes for that, I think the attitude is what helps him be so fearless when he’s flying down a hill, especially with the memory of Olympic disappointment so fresh in his mind. Good for him. Characters like him are what make the Olympics so much fun, and everybody loves a comeback story! (I’m pulling for you, Lindsay.)

B- Joannie Rochette Wins Bronze after the Unexpected Death of Her Mother

There are some moments that happen during athletic competition that surpass the sport entirely. Joannie winning the Bronze in Women’s Figure Skating was one of these moments. Women’s skating is always one of my favorite winter sports to watch. The combination of graceful dancing mixed with powerhouse strength is moving enough. Then, I remind myself that for the most part, it’s not women who are competing, but rather 16 or 17 year old girls who find themselves at the height of their career before they have graduated high school.  The pressure they feel must be overwhelming. Joannie, of course, was under an entirely different level of pressure and pain that I don’t think anyone among us can understand. Watching her finish her short program on Tuesday night, I knew there was not a dry eye in the arena. The commentators were silent until finally Scott Hamilton felt the need to remark on what an incredible feat this 19 year old girl had just accomplished, his voice obviously cracking to reveal tears of his own.

Joannie’s mother had died only two days earlier, and she had found a way to go on to perform anyway. Watching her flawlessly jump, flip, and twirl to her music felt like a gift that I can’t understand how she found the strength to share. As if that wasn’t enough, the love and support that the Canadian fans gave their hometown hero really transcended the sense of competition usually so prevalent in Olympics sports. Ultimately, Kim Yu-Na took home gold for South Korea with a record-breaking long-skate routine, but I think in these games, Joannie’s ability to persevere really put her in category that’s hers alone.

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And now, everyone’s favorite part, the bad:

1- Evgeni Plushenko is Edged out of First by Evan Lysachek; Becomes Russian Guy from Rocky

We all saw Evan Lysacek take gold in Men’s Figure Skating wearing that fabulous snake inspired Vera Wang get-up, right? What a moment! But if so, it means we all caught a glimpse of the Russian silver-medalist Evgeni Plushenko looking considerably displeased with his position on the podium. I would like to go on the record as saying that I could tell this guy was bad news. I saw him repeatedly referring to his opponents as “my enemies,”and I have the distinct impression that this was not a mere translation problem. Since placing second, he has said on the record to any reporter who will listen that Evan should have not have beat him, because the American does mere “ice dancing,” not “ice skating.” Rather than taking his silver and retiring to his adoring fans in Russia, he has new information on his official website that lists his place at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics as “Platinum Medal.” As my brother said, paraphrasing the expression oft-repeated by Grandmothers everywhere, “when life hands you lemons, you pretend they are not lemons.” Now Plushenko can slink away into obscurity while Lysacek joins “Dancing With The Stars” or whatever he chooses (please, Evan, don’t). In any event, I’m glad to live in a country where, if our Olympians thought they could try to trick us about which place they achieved in a universally recognized competition, they would be mocked.

B – U.S. Snowboarder Asked to Leave Olympic Celebration after Racy Photos of him Appear

After earning his bronze medal in Vancouver, snowboarder Scotty Lago went out celebrating at a bar. What ensued was tabloid website TMZ.com posting photographs of Scotty in uncompromising positions. As a result, he was allegedly asked by the Olympics Committee to pack his bags and head home. Whether that’s the case, or he went home on his own, the fact remains that Scotty watched the rest of the games on his home TV. The Committee, I assume, was worried about tarnishing their image. What they failed to remember, I guess, is that that Scotty doesn’t play tennis, he’s a freaking snowboader. These guys do jumps with names like the Double McTwist 1260. The U.S. team wore a uniform created to look like jeans and a flannel shirt . For God’s sake, the most famous Olympic snowboarder goes by “The Flying Tomato“. I’m glad they made snowboarding an Olympic sport, and in doing so, the Olympic Committee brought in a new group of fans; I know I have a new sport I love watching! They also ushered in some pretty epic partying. I just don’t see the harm. Frankly, some of those Biathlon guys probably would have appreciated Scotty taking them out for a night on the town.

3.) Skeleton Is Still an Olympic Sport

Hear me out. I know that the competitors that compete in Olympic-level Skeleton deserve credit, and credit they get. But for the life of me, I cannot get interested in the sport. If it was designated to its own Olympic show, or even channel on NBC or one of its affiliates, I doubt I would have a problem. But alas, it is not. If I want to watch skiing, I need to watch skeleton. If Shaun White is preparing to snowboard, Bob Costas throws us to skeleton. It’s everywhere! After two full weeks of frustration, I have finally realized why this sport evokes such strong feelings from me. Basically, unlike every other sport, I don’t know beyond reasonable doubt that I wouldn’t be great at skeleton. I know I’m not good at skiing, I have the bruises to show it. You could have Tara Lipinski herself coach me at skating and I would still spend my whole long program on my rear end. But skeleton? I just don’t know. As a kid, I was really, really good at sledding. With the right coaches and full body suit, I really think I could go for the gold.

Skeleton photo courtesy of Flikr.

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So there you have it: Pintje’s Picks for best and worst Olympic Moments. As always, I look forward to some serious discussion in the comments section!

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I don’t know what it is about this week, but I have been craving Belgian cuisine. I know I am part of a relatively small group of folks who love this weird little country, but I was fortunate to live and study there for a year, and what can I say? I liked what I saw! One negative thing about cooking this food is you miss out on the experience of ordering at a Belgian restaurant. Specifically, when you want the check at the end of a meal in Belgium, you ask for “de reckoning.” Can you think of a more intense way to complete a lovely dinner than requesting The Reckoning? I cannot.

Much to my roommate’s delight, this longing for the Lowlands inspired me to cook up some yummy Potatoes A La Boulangere and endives wrapped in ham and smothered in Gruyere cheese sauce. Yum, yum, yum. A good friend of mine from college once taught me that a well-balanced meal has a variety of color. Keeping this in mind, I balanced the yellow of the potatoes and the white sauce with some red, red wine. In my book, that counts. To show his appreciation, my roommate took the amazing photographs you’ll find below.

For the potatoes, I followed the instructions linked above to a T. The only difference was I used a smaller, circular pan since it’s what I have, but still used the same amount of milk and veggie broth. These came out really delicious; between the added liquid and the time spent cooking, these flavors helped cut some of the harshness that onion can have.

For the endives, I had to be a bit more creative since no recipes I found online were quite what I was looking for. I began by steaming the endives as I prepared a basic white sauce (2 tablespoons butter melted and whisked with 2 tablespoons flour, and a cup of milk slowly stirred in). Thanks to an earlier attempt to make French Onion Soup gone terribly awry (I’ll spare you the details; it was inedible), I had a whole lot of Gruyere cheese in the fridge, so of course that found its way into the sauce. Then I wrapped each endive in a slice of simple deli ham, laid it on the dish, and poured the sauce over it. The whole thing went into the oven at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Now, Julia Child I am not. This dish can and will be improved next time I make it. The potatoes were superb, but cooking endives was foreign to me and I know I didn’t get them quite right. The insides, as I had been warned, came out too bitter. Luckily, my roommate and I were able to eat around it and get to the good stuff, but next time I make this dish I think I will just take the time to core the endive, or cut it in half and remove a few inner layers. I had been worried about the endives coming apart, but really, since it all lays together under a ham blanket and cooks in cheese, I don’t think it will present a problem.

With that, I turn to my third glass of wine and to the Olympics.

A friend at work today described patriotism as “pretending to care about snowboarding once every four years … for your country.” I must confess, I love, love, love the Olympics. Sure, most people agree that the Summer Olympics are more compelling than the Winter Olympics (I blame you, curling), but I really get a kick out of totally immersing myself in a series of sports that I know little about played by competitors who I don’t know from Adam. However, this Olympic season is bittersweet for me. I really miss the 24/7 Olympics Coverage being focused almost constantly on a man who, to me, represents all that is good in the world of skiing: Bode Miller.

The 2006 Torino Olympics were held while I was in college, back when four hours of classes and waking up before noon constituted a “busy day.” Accordingly, my roommate and I remained glued, in our pajamas, to our television set for the duration of the games. Luckily for us, Bob Costas introduced us to the man, the myth, the legend, Bode Miller. Now, before you get too attached, please understand that Bode did not fare well at the Olympics that year. In fact, it would be fair to call him, as many have, one of the biggest busts in Olympic history. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! If you know Bode, as I pretend I do, you understand that it only adds to his charm.

My roommate and I learned many things about Bode that year. Looking back on it all, I think fact has combined with lore, but what it basically amounts to it is this: he seems like a ton of fun. He told Bob Simon during a 60 minutes interview that at least some of the major accolades he has received as a skier were accomplished while wasted. I remember hearing that he refused to submit to performance-enhancing drug tests until he was promised they would not test for weed. When Nike agreed to sponsor him, his only request was that he have his own trailer, wherever he go, and that no one enter it without his permission. Does that wish sound familiar? That’s because it is a slightly more grown-up version of the “no girls allowed” treehouse you wanted as a 5 year old.

Finally, I vividly remember one of those “Learn About These Athletes” videos sponsored by NBC where the reporter visited Bode in his home in upstate New York. To me, this story solidifies that all rumors, urban legends, and fact combine to solidify Bode’s standing as the next Chuck Norris. I have to assume the reporter arrived at Bode’s house knowing that things might be strange. I imagine he had done his research and knew, for instance, that his subject grew up with hippie parents who had named Bode’s sister  Genesis Wren Bungo Windrushing Turtleheart, and they lived in a house with no running water. Still, the purpose of the interview was to get an understanding of what exactly made Bode Miller the record-shattering athlete he was. Appropriately, the men stepped into what used to be a farmhouse but was now an anexed part of Bode’s home. When asked how he trained for the Olympic sports, Bode raised his hands, to show abandoned and rusty farm equiptment that littered the floor of the former farmhouse. The reporter looked bewildered. “I push it around,” Bode said.

That’s right. Bode Miller, the man preparing to represent the United States of America in the Olympic Games, was preparing by pushing old farm equipment around in what was essentially a shed. U-S-A! U-S-A! The good news to come out of this was that my roommate and I realized he probably had a land line in his house since cellphone reception was unlikely to make it over the mountain. With a simple Google search, we found his number and called. While giggling, we asked the woman who answered if Bode was home. “No, he’s not,” she sighed. ” I bet you already know that he’s in Torino.” I guess we weren’t the first people to think of this idea. Whatever! We totally drunk dialed Bode! It sealed the connection I already creepily felt with him, and have felt ever since.

After reading all of this, it should come as no surprise that Bode Miller did not do so well at the 2006 Olympics; he failed to medal in any of his events. I remember watching him fail miserably on TV while the sports announcer was recalling that he had been at a local bar until 4 or 5 that very morning. That’s my Bode!

Now, remember I said this moment was bittersweet. Bitter because these Winter Olympic Games feel incomplete without the “real athletes” rolling their eyes every time they get asked how Bode Miller is. But also sweet, because it turns out all that farm work has paid off! Bode earned his first Olympic medal on Monday.

Consider me full-time Team Bode! Now, if you’ll excuse me, my other Olympic love, Johnny Weir, needs my support.

Hope everyone had a nice Valentine’s Day! I missed my bus up to NYC and had quite a bit of trouble finding transportation the next day, so the plans my boyfriend had made for us needed to be canceled. Luckily, he anticipated that I would arrive hangry (a combination of hungry and angry) and made alternate plans. We ate at Neo on the Upper West Side, and it was utterly delicious. I am a big sushi fan, and I can say that it was, without exception, the best sushi I have ever had. We sat at the sushi bar and watched the chefs create their works of art while sipping lychee-based cocktails. When our main dishes arrived, they were served without soy sauce or wasabi, and sure enough, the sushi was absolutely perfect and required no alteration of any kind. We also played my favorite date-night game; Guess Which Number Date Those People are On. While no one ever “wins” or “loses” the game, it is really fun to guess which number date another couple is on. First? 15th? Last?


Before I belatedly left for New York, I had been planning on writing about the 25th Anniversary Remake of We Are The World. I have been thinking very carefully about how to appropriately address the video and song. I want to make it clear that any snark I am delivering is not aimed at the intention of these artists. I think the cause is noble, and in a crisis, Americans never cease to amaze me with the sheer outpouring of love and support that we offer (While we are on the topic, Haiti can still use lots of help.) That said, can we talk about Lionel Richie sanctioning the use of auto-tune??

Let me begin by saying that, while I may be in the minority on this one, I really like this song. We had to learn it when I was in 6th grade, so I know every word by heart, and it is really catchy. It is certainly a vanity project for these singers taking the “solos”, but the song also presents a unique way for the listener to enjoy each voice, and how they complement each other. In case you are wondering “whose voice does she think Lil’ Wayne complements?”, the answer is no one. But we will get to that shortly.

I like the updated beat they add to the song. And I like Jennifer Hudson. A lot. I personally do not understand everyone’s interest in Josh Groban (particularly, something about his eyebrows makes him remind me of a cartoon character) but I think he sings his part well. I like how they incorporate Michael Jackson into both the song and the video, but it is worth noting that if there is a quota for how many times Janet Jackson should allow herself to appear with M.J. via hologram, she has definitely, unequivocally, reached it. Someone needs to politely remind her of this (Tito? Jermaine? Anyone?).

Next up is Wylclef doing some type of wailing. He seems to be catching a lot of grief on some of the blogs that I read, but I have to say, I think his portion is one of the most genuinely moving parts of this song. He seems to really be singing from the heart, which is not surprising, since he calls Haiti home. Also, I think it gives this updated version of the 1980’s song something substantive to differentiate it from MJ and Lionel Ritchie’s original hit. When Celine Dion steps up to the mic for her part, I realize that I can no longer see or hear from this woman without immediately thinking of this video. You’re welcome, readers.

OK, now it gets weird. Lil’ Wayne starts singing through auto-tune, and I begin questioning Lionel’s creative direction. Plus, why have Lil’ Wayne introduce the audience to the auto-tuner, rather than its master, T-Pain? Funny you should ask! Have no fear, T-Pain appears shortly, with the auto-tuner set firmly to “robot voice.” Also, he is inexplicably wearing a backpack. I have to assume this was a compromise reached with Lionel in exchange for his not wearing a distracting top hat.

Next up is the rap interlude, which did not evoke as strong a reaction from me as it did from most bloggers I follow. I think, if anything, it’s nice to see this collection of rappers getting together to promote peace and love, and all without using a single expletive. I find it refreshing. That said, when I first watched this, I used this portion of the song to wonder about the fate of old Kanye West. This would have been the perfect opportunity for him, I thought. He loves to auto-tune his voice. And he loves to participate in things like this and then blog (in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS) about how people just don’t understand him. After that Taylor Swift moment at the VMA’s, however, no one seems to give him a second chance. Then, out of the darkness, he appears (more specifically, at 6:57). Is it just me, though, or has Lionel sequestered him to his own (possibly padded) recording studio? That’s what you get for ruining a 20 year old country singer’s dream moment, Kanye. Lesson learned. Kanye responds to this Oprah-styled “A-Ha!” moment by letting us know that, no, he does not learn lessons. After his world-famous impromptu “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” line during a live fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina, he once again mentions that disaster. Maybe think about leaving Katrina off of your rap repertoire, eh Kanye?

This post has gone on more than long enough, so I leave you with a few gems that I would hate for anyone to miss, and their coordinating time markers:

  • 4:44: I think, when I pause the video, I see Jason Mraz. If so, I can’t believe they didn’t use him more. Same goes for Robin Thicke, who you can see in the same shot. Please Google both men ASAP if you are not already familiar with them.
  • 5:45: Freezeframe and locate Vince Vaughn. Seriously, he is there with no explanation.
  • 5:47: Jamie Foxx does a Ray Charles impression and gets called out by J-Hud’s “no you did not” face. Priceless.
  • 7:48: It took me literally 4 listens to realize that Wyclef is saying “Haiti.” Not my best work.

I’d love folks to leave anything I missed in the comments section!

Snowpacolypse (aka Snowmageddon, aka snOMG aka ClusterFlake) is no longer fun. I have been cooped up in my house for too long, and am growing increasingly anxious about all of the work I am missing. I needed an activity today to cure these winter blues, and it came in the form of a favorite dish of mine that I often order when I go out: chicken marsala. Yum, yum, yum. After googling a few different ways of making the dish, I walked to the local supermarket to pick up ingredients, played the soundtrack to “An Education” on my IPod, and got started. What transpired was pretty great, as far as new dishes go!

Ingredients:

  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • button mushrooms
  • an onion
  • skinless boneless chicken breasts (cut thin if possible)
  • marsala wine
  • chicken stock

Let me go on the record saying that I never use any sort of “cooking wine.” Half the fun of cooking a dish that requires wine is drinking (or finishing) the bottle while your food cooks, so I always use whatever bottle I have lying around. That said, 6 days of blizzard has forced my roommates and I to consume any and all alcohol in the house, so I decided that while I was at the supermarket, I would spring for the Marsala wine.

To begin, pat the chicken breasts dry and salt and pepper them. Heat a combination of olive oil and butter in a skillet set to medium-high heat. Personally, I am a big olive oil fan, so I only used a tiny, 1/2 spoonful portion of butter, but lots of the recipes I saw called for more. To each his own. Using tongs. drop in the chicken breasts and cook for a few minutes on each side, browning them. When you’re done, remove the chicken and put them on a plate.

Pour out the majority of your olive oil/butter combination, while retaining just a little bit of liquid in the skillet. Dump in sliced mushrooms (I used about 7 for a 2-person serving) and some chopped onions. Measurements of any type escape me (I often refer to distance in terms of football fields, and claim that any location is “about 2o minutes away” from me), so I eyeball these things. I would say that a 4:1 or 3:1 mushroom to onion ratio makes sense. After they have been cooking for a little bit and the mushrooms are letting off their moisture, dump in 1/2 cup  wine. Let that cook until the sauce no longer smells strongly like alcohol, and until a good amount of the wine has evaporated, and add 2 cups of chicken stock. Also, add the chicken back into the mix, and put a lid on the skillet. The whole thing cooks for about 10 – 15 more minutes (the chicken should be flipped a few times) and then it’s done. Voila! I had mine over a handful (OK, 3 handfulls …) of cooked penne, but the chicken is good enough that it could be served as its own entree. Just make sure that however you serve it, you spoon the extra sauce onto the plate.

Mmm, mmm good. Next time I make it, I think I’ll add flour to the chicken before I brown it so that it will actually get brown. Also, despite how the photograph appears, the chicken does not end up pink. Optical illusion!

Lastly, anyone looking for a weekly pick-me up should get acquainted with Slate’s weekly “Barack Obama’s Facebook Feed.” It is incredible.

Hello, all! I have been wanting to start a blog for quite some time, as a way of forcing me to get back into writing. I enjoyed writing in college, but my job now rarely requires me to string together more than a handful of words, let alone worry about capitalization or punctuation. So, admittedly, I am beginning this blog for selfish purposes, but I hope that in the process I can share some of my interests (namely, food, music and snark). Now, with the feet of snow that have blanketed my surroundings, preventing me from leaving the house, we begin!

Vampire Weekend has a new album out called Contra, and I really like it. It sounds like they were listening to a lot of Graceland-era Paul Simon while also smoking a lot of pot. It has synthesized beats and electric melodies which usually irritate me, but they use it all in a really self aware way, sort of like the Postal Service. I also really like how cohesive this album is. With ITunes selling individual songs for about a dollar, I think far fewer bands take the time or work to create a unique sound that carries the listener through the whole record. Their lyrics are also great; each song sort of transplants you to this other place. For me, that’s great, because my current place looks like this:

Anyway, I am really enjoying this album and have had it on repeat for most of the weekend. Their debut album was also great. I YouTubed their song “Oxford Comma” and watched their music video for the first time. It’s cute. I am not a big proponent of pretending that music videos having any relevance at all since the television channel designated to play them no longer does so (DAMN YOU FLAVOR OF LOVE 8). Unless you are Lady GaGa or Michael Jackson (R.I.P.) I just don’t see how a music video really does anything to help me enjoy your three minute long pop song. This video, however, reminds me an awful lot of one of my favorite directors, Wes Anderson. It has a very Rushmore feel to it. So, enjoy the video, and enjoy the song!