Friday, February 25, 2011

gnat says OPA!

chicago is a huge center of greek diaspora. (according to wikipedia so are new hampshire and florida, who knew?) i'm 1/4 greek, so it's a little bit unacceptable that i've lived here for eight months and haven't been over to greektown to visit my people.

instead, because the end of the quarter was looming and i had papers due left and right, (and because you can only cook tacos so many tuesdays in a row before it gets really boring) i decided to throw a GREEKSTRAVAGANZA! on monday.

before you can throw a greek dinner party you need greek ingredients, some of which are basically impossible to find in your average run-of-the-mill grocery store. aleck (a fellow greek and chicago native) was kind enough to poll his relatives about their preferred food shopping location, and the overwhelming consensus was:

fresh farms market! way out in the northwest suburbs of chicago. lucky for me, taylor was as excited about the prospect of a grocery-related field trip as i was, so on saturday we embarked on a mini road trip to niles, IL to get all of the goodies on my list.

so, fresh farms market is my new favorite place. i'll spare you a detailed description of our time there, because odds are we will be going back and it will get its own post. despite my giddiness throughout the shopping experience somehow i managed to exhibit a tremendous amount of restraint and only left with things on my list. was a long list.

my menu was pretty ambitious, so i began to prep little by little on saturday and sunday.

by the time guests began to arrive on monday, i was greeksuited up and in the last stages of cooking.

there was a veritable smorgasbord of all my favorite foods to cook and eat: dolmas, moussaka, tsatziki, greek salad, lemon chicken, spanakopita, shaareya and tabbouleh, the last two of which are actually egyptian but shhhhh.

side note: smorgasbord is a swedish word for a buffet type food situation. unfortunately, extensive google searching (and mother phone calling) has failed to turn up a greek equivalent.

the most exciting food item by far was the saganaki. saganaki is a hunk of kefalotyri cheese that's been floured, egg washed, floured again, pan fried, soaked in booze, then lit on fire. that's right - cheese on fire. saganaki isn't actually traditonally greek, but originated in a restaurant right here in chicago's greektown.

a lovely little greek lady at fresh farms market told us to use sherry, but after several failed attempts to light the cheese we resorted to vodka. even so, the cheese was not as on fire as i had hoped it would be.

next time we'll use bacardi 151.

also notable, although probably to nobody but me, my first truly successful baklava making attempt. it turns out the secret is to use a loooooot of butter. i won't tell you how much.

we wore laurels and togas, we listened to greek music, we wined and dined. we GREEKSTRAVAGANZA!d, that truly is the only word for it.

once the guests had gone i promptly passed out on the couch.

throwing a GREEKSTRAVAGANZA! is hard work.

the next day, because it was tuesday and there was a downright disgusting amount of leftover food, (and because i was in the midst of far less fun than GREEKSTRAVAGANZA! excessive procrastination induced paperwritingstravaganza) i had greek tacos for dinner.

don't be fooled, they may look cool but there is a reason that greek tacos are not a real thing.

one of these days i will make it to actual greektown. in the meantime, i am up to my ears in enough leftover dolmas and tsatziki to keep me fed through the remainder of paperwritingstravaganza.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

gnat is reunited with an old friend

that's right everybody - my girl guy is back.

he's been on hiatus since december, so when i felt the little tug that told me he was out there (a little bit like the spidey sense, except it goes off for imminent loud redundant singing instead of danger) i thought i must be wrong. still, i peeked out the window and sure enough, there he was.

now i've had the winter blues all week, so i perked right up when i saw him. i snatched up my scarf and coat and ran downstairs to introduce myself. unfortunately my excitement faded quickly and was gone by the time i made it over to his corner.

i think the following photo, taken by a passer-by, speaks to the emotions i was experiencing as he continued right on singing about his girl throughout our encounter:

that, my friends, is an unsuccessfully suppressed grimace.

i have no idea whether the groundhog saw his shadow last week or not (or even what it would mean either way... groundhog day isn't really something we pay attention to in california). what i DO know is that it's starting to get warm enough out there that my girl guy can comfortably stand outside and sing for hours on end, and for that i am definitely grateful.

Monday, February 7, 2011

gnat reflects on her URL

it's snowing, again. usually snow makes me feel giddy and child-like, today it's only making me frustrated and homesick.

some days i get this gut feeling that i am in the wrong place. it's as if the magnetic dipoles in my sinuses are misaligned... my body senses my longitude and latitude and for some reason thinks that they are incorrect (and tells me so, with a sense of urgency).

actually, i think that only happens in birds, but you get my point.

maybe i'm just tired of winter. after all, by my standards it should be just about over... at the moment it's not looking like that's going to happen any time soon.

i'm going outside to eat some snowflakes and see if i can get excited about them again.

Friday, February 4, 2011

gnat survives the snowpocalypse

let me preface this by saying that of all the chicago adventures i have had thus far, snowpocalypse has been without doubt my absolute favorite.

it all started on monday morning when i had the following conversation with my mother:

ma: tomorrow and the next few day there will be a blizzard storm you need to go get food to store
gnat: i went today
ma: candles there might be power outage
gnat: but the store is very close
gnat: a blizzard?
ma: i am telling you whats on the news
gnat: in chicago?
ma: yeah all over and they said chicago. the next few days worse on tuesday and wednesday
ma: just check it
ma: go to walgreen get a couple of flash lights and a lot of batteries
ma: you dont want to find yourself alone at home pitch black
ma: your stove is gas?

a quick google search turned up a story from the chicago sun-times with the headline "'life-threatening' blizzard on its way to chicago area."

naturally i did what any scared californian who had never lived through a blizzard before (and who had a fear mongering parent sending doomsday messages from the other side of the country) would do - i prepared for the worst. over the course of monday and tuesday i amassed a respectable collection of candles, flashlights, snacks, and water in anticipation of the impending snowmageddon.

what i forgot to get (and what would later prove essential) was wine. by the time cara and i realized the omission, the winds had picked up and the "falling" snow was flying horizontally. we suited up in our snowpocalypse survival gear and trudged through the abandoned streets to the nearest trader joe's.

our provisions:

we dined and caroused with our taco tuesday guests (because i wasn't about to let the end of the world get in the way of taco tuesday, and neither were they, although we ate slightly more blizzard appropriate foods) and then somewhat foolhardily headed out to experience the storm.

it was chaotic. frenzied. helter skelter. really the only word for it is apocalyptic.

the next morning (my first snow day!) we examined the aftermath of the storm. things i found buried in the snow included my street,

a fire hydrant,

and (probably) a bicycle.

we snowball fought - well, i attempted rather pathetically to snowball fight and the andrews pummeled each other with continent shaped chunks of snow,

and i made my first snow angel, which is truly as satisfying as all those little kids frolicking in the snow on tv make it look.

snowpocalypse is, sadly, over, and it's sunny and beautiful (albeit really, really cold) outside, but the streets and the sidewalks are still piled high with snow. i'm not sure how long it will stick around, the snow plows have been at it outside my window since about six o'clock this morning. thanks, assholes.

(side note: perhaps due to the sun coming in through the windows and the garbage-truck like beeping of the snow plows i woke up thinking i was on kelton, that it was wednesday, and that i was late for work. i even strained to hear if patty had beaten me to the shower.)

there's a small part of me that wishes it could be snowpocalypse every day.

well, not every day.