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Sunday, July 29, 2012

The pampered moose?

Pamplemousse.
What a strange word. It has been tucked away in the recesses of my mind since I first saw it as a child years ago on vacation in Las Vegas.
My parents and I were walking through Circus Circus after visiting their Midway. Circus Circus was one of the first on the Las Vegas Strip to recognize that not only adults over 21 go to Las Vegas--they also have children.  This hotel/casino provided carnival games for the kids to win stuffed animals. At the same time, their parents play in the casino, where they could try to win their kid’s college tuition.  
I remember the inside of this hotel/casino was a gigantic explosion of the color pink. Every shade of it was on the walls, the carpeting, the staff’s uniforms; even the interior lighting had a hue of pink.  At the time, as my young vision was being saturated with this rosiness, I happened to notice a gentle glowing sign (in pink light bulbs, of course) on the wall—it read Pamplemousse le Restaurant. It struck me as a weird name for a restaurant. The word resembled pampered moose, but there was no way a restaurant would be called that—who would eat there? 
Flash forward to present time. I was getting prepared in the morning and happened to notice my new shower gel was Pink Grapefruit. Right below the name in French was pamplemousse.  A-ha!! Upon seeing this word, the memory of the restaurant flooded back.  I finally knew what it meant.
Now it makes perfect sense—of course Circus Circus would have a French restaurant with the word PINK in it!!  

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What is your favorite TV show?

My new favorite TV show is Chopped on Food Network.  From the moment I started watching it, I became a fast fan.  This show took a tried and true concept of a cooking competition and threw in a twist. The four competing chefs have to incorporate in their dishes the secret ingredients that are concealed in a basket. Then they are timed to create a dish for the judges. If the food doesn’t hit on all cylinders of the criteria of taste, creativity and presentation, the chef is eliminated, hence the name of the show “chopped”.
I gravitate to shows that the more I watch, the more I became aware of its different aspects. The first layer of this show I was intrigued by with the unusual ingredient combos—who thinks of pairing frozen waffles with fish? I’ve heard of fried chicken and waffles, so maybe…? Then, I am amazed that the chefs change the texture of the waffle by simply grinding it up to crumbs to make a coating for the fish. Honestly, to figure that out would take me all day! By watching this show, I am starting to expand my cooking knowledge—for instance, I’m using salad dressing as a marinade! I know, not a great culinary leap, but these baby steps are a sign of progress!
 After viewing more episodes of Chopped, another layer emerged for me. At the start, I was interested in the food. Now I have started rooting for one of the four competing chefs. I have become vested in their back stories—the chef who is a cancer survivor gets my vote rather than the successful, glossy caterer. I watch their reactions to the secret ingredients. If a chef turns their nose up at a mundane ingredient like puffed rice cereal, they don’t get my support.  I tend to favor the chefs that are down to earth, friendly, aren’t full of themselves --in short the least like a chef.
Lastly, even though the ingredients and the challengers change, there is a certain consistency on the show that is comforting. I can always be sure that the host Ted Allen will announce in his taciturn manner who will be chopped (which is always after the commercial break) and that one of the competing chefs will argue with a judge that how could it be expected for them to produce under these horrible time constraints (would someone please remind them what the show is all about?)
Looking at the time, I’d better see if there could be a Chopped marathon playing. If not, I can check my kitchen and see what I can throw together for my family. Balsamic vinegar and cherries anyone?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The furry sharks

The time piece in the living room read 5:00 in the afternoon. Sunlight broke through the blinds and spilled onto the carpet. At that precise moment, the animals began to hover around the kitchen. They all knew it was their dinner time by their internal clocks.
“Hungry, so hungry,” Stanley groaned. He was lying on the kitchen floor on his side in front of the stove.
“I wonder what’s on the menu tonight?” Pepper pondered, licking her mouth, as her teeth gleamed in almost a smile.
“I really liked yesterday’s supper,” Mimosa commented, stretching his back, his tail quivering. “Tuna and egg, my favorite!”
“Mine was some sort of beef stew, but the tuna and egg was good as a dessert,” Pepper chimed in.
Very quietly, Stanley let out a soft groan, covering his eyes with his paw.
“Yes, the minute Stan and I leave our food, there you are to clean up!” Mimosa gave the dog a sideway look.
“But I always make sure you are completely finished,” Pepper offered as her defense, slinking away from the cat’s angry eyes. “I wait outside of the kitchen until you and Stanley leave your plates.”
“Sure, with the proper training, now you wait!” Mimosa countered. “Months before, after you wolfed down your food, you would try to muscle in on our meal!”
“It wasn’t my fault!” Pepper protested. “So many aromas hitting me all at once!  Just as I would finish my meal starring beef, then I would detect the delicious scent of fish or chicken. I couldn’t resist!”
“Please! Stop talking about food!” Stanley pleaded, rolling over onto his back, exposing his furry tummy. “I’m starving!!”
“Sorry Stanley!” Pepper apologized. “It shouldn’t be much longer. Someone from the pack will come to feed us.”
 “There is no consoling him unless you throw a can of tuna at him!” Mimosa scoffed. “You don’t get that big waiting around too long for food!”
“That’s mean, Mimosa!” Pepper scolded. “Stanley can’t help the way he’s built!”
“Well, I’ll go in and see what’s on the menu while we wait on the service,” Mimosa resolved, slinking into the pantry.
Pepper’s chocolate brown eyes watched Stanley sympathetically. She padded over to the cat in a gesture of condolence, but Stanley would have nothing to do with it. In one swift motion, he rolled to his feet and swatted Pepper’s nose with his paw.
“What was that for?” Pepper squealed.
“For talking about food in my delicate condition!” Stanley spat.
Mimosa swaggered out of the pantry, his whiskers twitching.
“Well, what did you see?” Pepper asked, her tail wagging. “What can we expect tonight?”
“Empty plates and grumbling tummies!”  Mimosa announced melodramatically, standing between Pepper and Stanley.
“What do you mean?” Stanley demanded.
“The spot where our dinner cans are on the shelf is empty!” Mimosa revealed, his eyes darting back and forth between the animals.
“I don’t believe you!” Stanley objected, stomping off to the pantry to see for himself.
“That’s not a funny joke!” Pepper reprimanded.
“I wish I was kidding!” Mimosa sighed, curling is tail around him.  “See for yourselves! There is a big gaping hole on the shelf where our cans of food should be.”
Stanley lumbered into the pantry, his bushy tail twitching with annoyance. “Mimosa must be playing a trick!” he thought with a grumble.  He raised his head and focused on the third shelf. Sure enough, between the large cooking pot and glass casserole dish was a blank space. He blinked several times, but the image did not change.
Dejectedly, Stanley slinked back into the kitchen.
“Well?” Pepper questioned, her tail wagging expectantly.
“He’s right,” Stanley mumbled. “There is no food.”
“Oh, no!” Pepper howled. “What will we do?”
“I don’t understand it,” Stanley mused. “This is definitely not like the humans.”
“Speaking of the humans,” Mimosa chimed in. “Haven’t you noticed that they are not here?”
Pepper’s head snapped up, sniffing the air. “He’s right! Where are they?” she howled again.
“They would never leave us at our feeding time,” Stanley surmised.
“The house is empty, so empty,” Mimosa observed, licking his paw and wiping behind his ear.
“Something’s wrong! Something’s definitely wrong!” Pepper gasped.  “What will we do if they don’t come back?”
“Starve, I presume,” Mimosa said simply, his mouth stretching into a yawn. “A house with no Humans, I guess we will have to get used to it!”
Stanley watched with hooded eyes both animals—Pepper was in full panic mode, pacing furiously up and down, her nails clicking frantically on the tile. However, Mimosa was quietly sitting on the floor, almost in a reclining pose.  Why would he look so relaxed since the prospect of no food would also affect him? Stanley let this thought and the evidence roll around his head.
Suddenly, Pepper stopped in her tracks and her ears pricked up. “Wait! I hear them! The Pack! They’re coming closer!!”
“Or they went to the store to get our food,” Mimosa quickly stated, as Stanley stared at him with pure annoyance. 
With one enormous bound, she galloped to the kitchen window, excitedly shouting, “They’re here! The Pack has returned!!”
The front door opened and the Humans, laden with grocery bags, fought their way into the kitchen since Pepper was jumping on each of them almost simultaneously. The cats moved to the corner of the kitchen, out of the hyper dog’s way.
“You’re something else!” Stanley hissed at Mimosa.
“Yes, I know,” he grinned.
“I hope they’re not starving and get worried that we were gone,” the Lady said, reaching into one of the bags and pulling out the animals’ food.
“No, we were only gone to the corner store for 20 minutes,” the Man assured, grabbing their plates and opening up the cans. “Besides, they’re animals. They don’t think like that!”