Saturday, November 5, 2011

It Tastes Like Winter

I think chestnuts are an underutilized nut in the American diet. Previous to this fall, it had been at least two decades since I'd had anything featuring chestnut. Last month, while Donna and I were celebrating our Anniversary down in Williamsburg, we were served a chestnut icecream with our dinner. Tonight, Donna made a brusselsprout (another under-used food) hash for dinner that featured a heavy use of chestnuts.

There's just something nifty about chestnuts. They've got this lovely, delicate, earthy-sweet flavor. It lends itself well to both sweets and to savory food-stuffs.

Tonight's hash was something that Donna just winged. Basically, she took her usual brusselsprout hash, and enhanced it with white wine and chestnuts:

• 10 chestnuts
• 2 pints fresth brussel sprouts (trim, cut in half, then slice thin)
• 6-8oz crimini mushrooms (sliced)
• Penzeys Fox Point seasoning
• dry white wine (recommend a sauvignon blanc)
• extra virgin olive oil
• butter (a good, rich, European-style is best)

Chestnut prep:
  1. Slice an X into the flat side of each chestnut
  2. Scatter nuts onto flat baking sheet and roast at 425 degrees for 15-25 minutes
  3. Let cool enough to handle, then peel.
  4. Chop chestnut meat into crumbles and set aside

Mushroom prep:
  1. Sauté sliced mushrooms in large skillet in a mixture of olive oil and butter
  2. Season with fresh-ground black pepper and liberal dash of Fox Point seasoning as they cook
  3. Cook till browned
  4. Remove mushrooms to bowl and set aside

  1. In same skillet, heat and melt 1Tbsp. of butter and 1 Tbsp. of olive oil
  2. Add brussel sprouts and saute till they edges begin to brown (about 8 minutes)
  3. Add half cup of white wine and let cook till wine is mostly gone.
  4. Season to taste with more Fox Point.
  5. Add in chestnuts and mushrooms, stir well and heat through
  6. Serve
The hash worked very well with a nice, rare sirloin (in our household, we generally use bison, but standard beef would likely do, as well. Garnished with some locally-sourced dark cherry tomatoes. Served the meal with red wine (the Vicious Petit Sirah's cranberry notes were a very nice complement both to the hash and to the sirloin).

Brusselsprout/Chestnut Hash with Bison Sirloin

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Listening to the printer churn away on a thousand page document is like listening to trees scream.

Shared Spaces

In the enterprise I work for, there's more employees than there are desks to seat them all. This is resultant of a number of factors: frequent need for people to work at different locations, people that telecommute regularly, and just an overall short-fall of available office/desk space.

For the most part, this hasn't been a problem for me. If anything, it encourages me to work from home (and, I tend to get more done while working from home, at any rate). Unfortunately, when we have our meeting days, it causes a larger number of people, than normal, to concentrate in the meeting facility. This tends to create an acute shortfall in desk space. While I have an assigned seat in the building where our large-group meeting is held, most attendees don't. So, if I arrive other than ass-early the day of the meeting, I frequently find my desk occupied by visitors.

On days where I'm not going to be busy, elsewhere in the building (typically, when I'm stuck in one of the labs), I politely evict the visitor. If I know I'm going to be elsewhere most of the day, I typically just set my stuff in my cube and let the visitor continue borrowing my desk. Generally, it's not a problem - if I'm not using it, I don't care, overly much, if someone else does.

That said, there's always people that seem to feel compelled to abuse the courtesy. Most frequently, the abuse are merely annoying. Generally, it's limited to my stuff being moved out of their normal places or paperwork/trash being left behind. While annoying, it's not a big deal. What is a big deal, however, is when people "borrow" stuff from my desk (note to people who borrow desks: if you find things like plastic silverware, blank CDROMs, pens, etc, in the desk, those are not consumables there for use by all an sundry. I pay for the shit sitting in my desk and your use of it is petty-theft).

Oh... I also always love when visitors take it upon themselves to make themselves at home at my desk by adjusting my seat to their personal comfort. It's oh so lovely to come back and find my chair's settings completely jacked up. It's also nice when one of the visitors has been eating at my desk and left food debris ground into the chair's fabric.

Monday, October 31, 2011

EMS in The `Hood

Dunno what's going on in my neighborhood, this week, but it seems like there's been lots of EMS activity every day. While we live near a couple major routes used by the local EMS to get around, that traffic is usually just passing by our neighborhood. This week, they've actually been stopping in the neighborhood.

Today, when I came home from work, an ambulance was stopped in front of a house three houses down from mine. Unfortunately, they were parked in the middle of the street with no indication of moving. Further misfortune is the fact that my street is a long, curving, one-way street. So, my choices were to: wait for it to move, do the long reverse the wrong way down the long, curving narrow street, park and walk the rest of the way home.

I'd considered backing, given that there was another side-street I could reach my house from. However, the length and curving narrowness of my street, combined with the relatively short walk and temperate weather, made me opt to just park and walk home.

As I passed my next door neighbor's house, she'd asked why I was walking rather than driving as I usually do. I indicated the ambulance with a somewhat annoyed look on my face. She informed me that it had been there, like that, for at least half an hour.

As I'd walked by, I'd noted that there was an empty stretcher in front of the house the ambulance crew was attending to. The door had also been hanging open, with no real sign of activity. It struck me as odd, at the time. My neighbor's mention of when it had arrived made me think, "if the ambulance is there for over an hour and the stretcher's empty on the lawn, someone's probably died." I noticed more than an hour later, that the ambulance was still there (though, thankfully, they'd since chosen to move it enough for traffic to get by). Given my prior thoughts, I looked to see if there might also be a Coroner's vehicle nearby. None was in evidence, but, perhaps I'd missed its coming and going? At any rate, the ambulance finally left the scene a little more than two hours after I got home.

Still don't know what it was all about. Generally, when an ambulance is called, they arrive quickly, act quickly and depart quickly (that whole "critical first hour" thing usually driving the pace). If an ambulance lingers, it's generally a sign of something not - or no longer - being an emergency. If something's not an emergency, you generally don't summon an ambulance and incur the visit's expense, so, lingering ambulances are generally a sign that an emergency became a non-emergency. Typically, this is because there's nothing urgent the EMS crew can do for the summoners - in other words, someone has died.

I'd also noticed, as I'd passed the house, that there had been a "For Sale" sign planted on the front lawn. It kinda made me wonder if, perhaps, the owner had had financial difficulties resulting in an attempt to sell. I further wonder if, maybe due to the current housing market, the owner couldn't get it sold before panic/despair set in and that, perhaps, the ambulance was called for a suicide. Still don't know. And, while it's morbid to ponder it and write about it, I don't feel inclined to inquire further. Don't want to cross the line from merely morbid to ghoulish.