Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category
- 3 parts Hendrick’s Gin
- 1.5 part lime juice
- 1 part sugar syrup/teaspoon of sugar.
- Few dashes of Paychaud’s Bitters
Shake all ingredients except the bitters with ice and strain into a pre-chilled martini glass. Add a few dashes of the bitter on top. Enjoy with mozzarella-rolled prosciutto with basil, and salami with Parmesan.
[Or, just drink a Shiraz-Cabernet-Viognier blend, as the better -half was doing]
Just some rambles to take advantage of free airport wifi.
Not the most pleasant thing to do on very early Monday morning…..but there I go again – all the way across the country this time. And I am holding on to my car keys with dear life this time around.
So Sunday included a five hours round trip drive (fortunately, I wasn’t driving) to essentially get Biryani from a Bangladeshi place in LA. Then being a total Bong bhadralok & buying lots of fish (which in a very non-typical Bong manner, I will actually will not eat – yes I know, Bongs have been trying to disown me on this technicality for a while). Plus a bunch of old Bong movie DVDs.
Yes – they do have biryani in SD, but not the aromatic, slightly moist with ghee and pieces of of succulent, melt-in-the-mouth pieces of mutto type of biryani. Delicious stuff.
It was universally agreed upon that LA has the fugliest downtown in America.
But plane-spotting is definitely fun near LAX. Especially if you can get a seat outside at the In-and-Out on Century Blvd. Heaven for airplane-geeks.
The part of LA where biryani and fish were picked up could very well be in a different country. Driving north on S Vermont Ave, every sign is in Korean (and every other shopfront offer acupuncture and some sort of herbal therapy). A few Bengali signs after that.
Watched bits and pieces of the Oscars while devouring said biryani. Under-whelmed. Both by the ceremonies, and most of the live-tweets.
What was with the people going on and on introducing the best actor/actress nominees ? Looked very awkward. IMHO, only Colin Ferrel was able to pull it off. And the sudden ending was weird as well. Like the theater caretaker was pointing to his watch and asking people to hurry along and finish up, he had to lockup and leave before his diner closed up.
Guy behind me: I don’t need to know the entire love-life, breakup and therapy of whoever you are talking to very loudly on the phone with.
[was going to post over the weekend, but procrastination ensued. as usual]
A great week at San Francisco for the Biophysical Society annual meeting, ending rather badly with two weary hours at the San Diego airport because I am a dunce who manages to lose car keys while waiting for the luggage! (To top it off, apparently these fob-thingies are some ultra super-duper gadgetry that requires NASA scientists to make and a pretty penny to replace. Gah.)
But overall, one of the pleasanter conferences I’ve been to. Some quick thoughts on food & drink (most important of course), the conference and the city. Real sciency stuff for a separate blog.
Food and Drink (mainly limited to places around the Moscone convention center and Union Square):
- Blue Bottle Coffee: A case of beer to Purely Narcotic for this recommendation. It’s hidden away from the main streets (the Mint Plaza location), so I wouldn’t have found it on my own. But so glad to finally be able to walk into a coffee shop in the US, order a Long Black Americano and not worry about it being served in gigantic saucers filled with water to kill the taste (actually, made a fool of myself by starting to explain that I wanted the regular cup size, only to be stared at with a ‘…but that’s what we do anyway’). Of course, the quality of the roast itself is top-notch and the barista approaches the pulling of each cup with zen-like devotion. Their brioches, and other assorted sweets and savouries are yum as well. No better way to open the day.
- Samovar Tea Lounge: Just above the convention center in the Yerba Buena gardens and usual lunch-spot. Bit of new-age pretentiousness about the place, but great selection of teas and – this turned out to important after nights of drinking – healthy food.
- Papalotes: This one was recommended via Twitter as well by geetika1255 (so that settles the question of whether Twitter serves any purpose?) and has gained fame recently with their chef beating Bobby Flay in a burrito throw-down. Therefore, as expected, there was a huge crowd outside the smallish place in the Mission area. But they did an admirable logistical job of seating people just as their food was about to be ready and then politely moving them out for the next batch. Food was good, everything was freshly grilled etc. But coming from San Diego, with its Mexican-food-at-every-corner-ness, it wasn’t such an overly exciting experience. The Aussies were suitably impressed though.
- Tropisueno: Stepped in only because it was next to the convention center and it was pouring. Came out very satisfied with the Mexican fare here – their spices were quite exquisite. But the margarita with agave nectar and house salt (whatever it was) was the winner – nice kick to it without overpowering. Would highly recommend.
- Pakhwan: Went here for a dinner partly out of nostalgia, partly because the Aussie contingent were craving for ‘Indian-style rice’ (I assumed they wanted biryani). This hole-in-the-wall place on O’Farell St had sustained us during my previous visit (seven years ago) for the same conference – back when we were PIGS. They have an actual tandoor in there, so both the tandoori chicken and the Bihari kebabs were moist and succulent. The began bhartha was wiped clean off the plate. Biryanis were so-so.
- The Daily Grill: The bar at the hotel I stayed; not too memorable other than the fact I got into a mild argument with the bartendress about how a Sazerac should be made (she was shaking the stuff, and I was telling her to stir) – but I bowed to the fact that she’d been bartending much much longer than I’d been making Sazeracs. I ended up drinking two of her concoctions and then going back later in the week for more. Now if it was a Martini, I’d have fought till death (though I doubt a good bartender would dare to shake when asked for stirred martini).
- Johnny Folley’s Irish Pub: Any place that serves Guinness does well by me – thusly, I have a built-in stop function that kicks in whenever I walk by an Irish pub. However, was it just me or their Guinness a wee bit watery? I had the Black and Tan to begin with and thought the less then usual robustness was just the layers mixing in too quickly. But subsequent drinking of just Guinness on its own was less than satisfying as well. Oh well, the lamb shanks more than made up for the drink.
- Lefty O’Doul’s: Didn’t have any food here (seemed like diner-style food) but had a few beers with friends on the first day. Had to comment because of the really nice waitress who served our drinks. It is rare to find someone reciting from memory the whole lot of 12 beers on tap – from light to the heavy - in order. Was also amazed how at the end of it, she helpfully pointed out how much each person owed without actually splitting the bill. Way to go.
- Gold Dust Lounge: Velvets couches, golden chandeliers, old oil paintings, statue of a gold-rusher as you walk in – a funky little place, with almost a dive bar-ish atmosphere. Easily the best place to hang-out after a tiring day at the convention. A bit pricey for the beers – but they have margarita specials ($3.50) till 830p. However, after 830p is the time to be hanging out there when Johnny Z and the Camaros sit behind a cramped bar-space and belt out 60-80s hits. More than the music, it’s old Johnny Z’s dry wit which makes it a lot of fun. Don’t walk in without expecting bit of borderline insults (I got the usual, Indian-must-be-call-center-dude-with-funny-accent treatment *yawn*). For a couple of bucks in tips, they’ll take requests (just don’t ask them to play Bon Jovi). Made my friend happy by playing Land Down Under. Truly mixed crowd as well – everyone from AARP members to wannabe hipsters, with equal parts regulars and tourists (a few nerdy biophysicists walked in as well, and were made appropriately made fun of by the aforementioned Johnny Z). If you do head out there, take plenty of cash – they don’t do cards. Expect a surly waitress, or two.
The actual conference:
- Bummed out by the lack of wi-fi in vast areas of the conference center. For a conference that was promoting the use of blogging (BPS had four official bloggers at the event) and Twitter to disseminate information, this was a huge fail.
- Poor planning for many of the talks – sessions that are historically always well attended (anything to do with ion channels), were given smaller rooms with hardly any standing areas left while concurrent sessions went empty. Also the National Lecture by Roger Tsien was filled out very quickly, which was bit of a downer, but we did get to hear and see the presentation in a different room. Other than these minor issues, a good conference, as usual.
- Good science, but nothing earth-shattering, no disruptive technologies. A few cool ‘out-of-the-box’ applications for existing technologies. Old controversies still raging even as participants have mellowed down. Roger Tsien’s lecture was wonderful as usual. His lab has succeeded in developing imaging techniques by which tumor cells in the living body can be highlighted by fluorescent light. This helps surgeons in cutting out the majority of the tumor without relying on guess-work. Even better, the tumor cells can be contrasted to important tissues like the nerve cells, which surgeons need to avoid. Current technologies have worked exceedingly well in mouse models. Next – clinical applications in humans.
- Personally, the conference was a huge boost in terms of networking and meeting up with lots of people. There are many regulars at this conference, and catching up with them on the edges of the actual sessions is satisfying. I actually get much more scientific information and exchange of ideas this way than attending actual talks. It also feels good when someone you’d interviewed with once for a postdoc job five years and haven’t seen for a while remembers your name and interests very well.
- Big thanks to the Aussie contingent for making it fun in the post-conference evening dinners and drinks (see above).
Bad weather and a busy meeting ensured that I did not have too much time to explore SF, but have been there couple of times before and done most of the touristy stuff. Certainly this won’t be the last trip either. In spite of the mainly gloomy weather this time, fondness for SF remains. Possibly not a place to live permanently (though given the quality of coffee on hand, I am sorely tempted), but great for brief visits or even spending a year or two like we did down under. San Francisco has that certain vibe, sorely lacking in San Diego (even in the Hillcrest/Gas Lamp-type happening areas).
Note about Virgin America’s service trying not to sound like a paid advertisement: must be the funnest, most comfortable US-domestic airline around. Starting from their red-carpeted check-in area that often plays eclectic music, to the mood-lighted, almost Vegas-like cabin interior, leather seats (with enough space), power-port on every seat, personal entertainment unit with free and paid stuff, easy ordering of food/drink through the personal unit and most of all, the easy-going attitude of their staff; these guys have managed to make flying within US fun again (I know SouthWest does a few of these things, but I’ve had some bad experiences from them). The humorous way they handled the fog-related delay of the flight into SF (we were held up at SD itself) and also the manner in which the extremely tired staff at the SD airport went out to check if I had dropped my keys on the plane speaks volumes of their customer service. Wish they served a few more destinations.
The SuperBowl to be played between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday, will have at least a few certain winners from the city of New Orleans. If the Saints win – the connection is obvious, and the French Quarters will erupt. But even if Indy wins, Peyton Manning happens to hail from NOLA, as does his father – who spent a long career playing with the home team (back in the dark days when the team was mocked as the ‘Aints).
So anyhoo, all this is a long lead up to say that I’ve always had a sort of romantic longing for NO, especially after reading ‘A Confederacy of the Dunces‘ (easily one of the more underrated gems). A city with a laid back attitude, rich musical heritage, spicy food, and a number of classic cocktails does absolutely fine by me.
Of course, being a lazy ass has meant I’ve kept putting off the trip down there (In fact - totally useless piece of personal trivia - we we had almost made bookings for the weekend that Katrina stuck NO, and some work made us cancel it). Oh well.
But in the spirit of celebrating Orleans, here’s the most famous cocktail from the city – and apparently, the very first cocktail to be ever invented. There are several versions of the drink , but I really liked how this one was written, so I pretty much followed the directions:
1/2 teaspoon absinthe, or Herbsaint (a New Orleans brand of anise liqueur)
1 teaspoon of simple syrup (or 1 sugar cube or 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar)
4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1 small dash, a scant drop, of Angostura bitters (extremely optional; some feel it helps open the flavors, but traditionalists may leave it out).
2 ounces rye whiskey. (I used Old Overholt Rye)
Strip of lemon peel
And I followed the traditional method outline there, using the Herbsaint, which I was lucky to find at the local BevMo:
The traditional method: Pack a 3-1/2 ounce Old Fashioned (rocks) glass with ice. In another Old Fashioned glass, moisten the sugar cube with just enough water to saturate it, then crush. Blend with the whiskey and bitters. Add a few cubes of ice and stir to chill. Discard the ice from the first glass and pour in the Herbsaint. Coat the inside of the entire glass, pouring out the excess. Strain the whiskey into the Herbsaint coated glass. Twist the lemon peel over the glass so that the lemon oil cascades into the drink, then rub the peel over the rim of the glass; do not put the twist in the drink. Or, as Stanley Clisby Arthur says, “Do not commit the sacrilege of dropping the peel into the drink.”
It takes while to make this drink, but the effort is quite well worth it.
Edited on the morning after: I made about 6 of these last night, and seems like a good idea to go easy on the sugar. For me, about half teaspoon of sugar hit the spot.
So here to the Saints (or the Colts) and the weekend in general. Cheers.
First, Happy New Year and all that. Wishing everyone a very successful, non-sober 2010.
The last day of fairly longish (and very relaxing) holiday weekend, along with the balmy, mid-70s and sunny weather we are experiencing here, calls for some refreshing outdoor drink.
So I cooked up this variation of the ultimate outdoor drink, the Mojito, with basil leaves in place of mint (try this with other drinks such as Juleps that call for mint as well, IMO basil has a nicer aroma), plus adding a bit of the Brazilian rum, Cachaca, and some orange liqueur to the mix.
Here’s the recipe:
1.5 part White Rum
1.5 part Cachaca
0.5 part Cointreau/Triple Sec
Dash of Blue Curacao
3-4 large basil leaves
Juice of half a lime
1-2 tsp sugar (demerara sugar is preferred, but I used Stevia)
Sparkling water/Soda (optional)
Step 1: Add the lime juice, sugar and basil leaves into a shaker; using a long bar spoon, mix the sugar and lime juice while smashing the basil leaves (do this gently without bruising the leaves). Add the rum, cachaca and Triple Sec with some ice, shake and pour into a tall Collins glass. Add the dash of Blue Curacao. Top up with soda or sparkling water if you want (I didn’t have either, so I used some tonic water, wasn’t too bad). Serve with a straw.
Step 2: Find a nice, sunny patio – preferably one with a hammock – and an engrossing book. Lie on the hammock, take a sip for every page read. When finished with the drink, go to Step 1. Repeat till the sun gets close to the horizon, making it bloody cold all of sudden.
So after 5 years of fearless & relentless blogging, I finally won an award for the efforts.
One of the funniest and most astute among the denizens of desi-blogosphere, and a rare person who even manages to consistently remain funny on Twitter has announced his own awards. And I get a prize in the …..”Blog most likely to make you an alcoholic” category.
So take that, y’all byaaatches who are crowing about winning the Indiebloggies. This award is so much better because:
I did not have to be nominated by some uber-elite jury.
I did not have to obtain the post-nomination eminent-blogger endorsement.
I did not have to send out e-mails, post messages on my Twitter and Facebook accounts extorting random people to vote for me.
I do not have to be gracious and and say that everyone’s a winner in my book.
I do not have to send out e-mails, post messaged on Twitter and Facebook thanking people for voting for me through multiple e-mail IDs.
Now that I have won the award, I promise to live up to it’s meaningless much exalted status. As a result of this, I will drink more (but of course) and blog more (yeah! dream on….) – preferably at the same time.
In terms of award winning achievements, this one ranks up there with the best of them:
Not sure if it is related to their upcoming demise, but Gourmet magazine online is doing a feature where they publish their 20 favorite cocktails of each decade, starting from the ’40s. They are upto the 90s now.
Simply gazing at the wonderful photos are probably worth the time by itself, but it is wonderful stuff for any cocktail connoisseur and additionally, a good lesson for aspiring mixologists.
Being Gourmet magazine, they also obviously get their preparations right: Martini is to be stirred (not shaken), the vermouth is ‘to taste’ (and they stress this fact) with nary a mention of vodka. We can but only appreciate.
All the other cocktails similarly exude class and style – no tropical forests hanging out of brightly colored, over-sweetened drinks calling for 10 different liquors!
So suitably inspired, I have got it into my head now, of trying out all the cocktail recipes posted on the site and then blogging about it!. Of course, given my record in such matters, ‘all’ might be rather stretching it. But this is alcohol we are talking about – so I will give it a fair go.
I wanted to start with a drink I’ve never had before and settled upon this rum-based recipe from the 50s: Frangipani. A combination of being intrigued by the name and the fact that it used gold rum, which I have rarely tried before, and Maraschino liqueur, which I wanted to try out for a while, made me go this one.
I had this theory that there might be some sort of Sanskrit roots to the word Frangipani (pani = water and all that), but as far as I can find out, Frangipani refers to a tropical flower (and a few other stuff). How that relates to the cocktail, I have no idea and the web is sparse on details. The only other mention of it as a cocktail has a very different recipe. As Gourmet put it, the drink is a variation of the Hemmingway daiquiri:
A cynical cocktailian might look at this as a dumbed-down Hemingway Daiquiri (or Papa Doble, as it’s sometimes called), but substituting more grapefruit juice for the lime and the sugar actually results in a very different drink. Look for Luxardo’s maraschino liqueur.
This is how I made it, based off the Gourment recipe :
- 1 part Golden Rum (I used the Dominican brand Ron Matusalem)
- 1 part Pineapple Juice
- 3 dashes Maraschino Liqueur (Luxardo, as suggested in the recipe, I was lucky enough to find it at BevMo)
Give it a few nice hard shakes jig in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a pre-chilled martini glass. The toughest part of making this drink was getting the Maraschino Liqueur right: three dashes mean dashes – pour a bit too much and the drink is overwhelmed by the honey-almond taste of the liqueur.
In terms of taste, it is indeed a very different drink from the Hemmingway Daiquiri – and much sweeter as expected with the pineapple juice. I also thought that the juice and the Maraschino liqueur hid the taste of the rum (but then perhaps I need to get myself a better quality or a more aged rum). Overall, even though I don’t like my alcohol too sweet, I can picture myself drinking this while relaxing outdoors on a weekend afternoon. The drink could be a a nice after-dinner cleanser as well.
As such, I also made my own version of the drink by increasing the portion of run to 1.5 parts and then adding a dash of lime juice (in the form of clarified Key lime) to have a bit of balance.
Not a bad start really. Cheers.
What a weirdly depressing Friday morning!
I should be thinking end of the week, cocktails/ good beer, good food etc. But here I am on a perfectly sunny San Diego day – one of those mornings that make this city such a fabulous place to live – deep in an inexplicable funk. Gah…
A good experimental result (or two) would be the best way to crawl out of the hole.
But the heart desires something else – a a crazy combination of simple pleasures …..
…a mellow Ghulam Ali ghazal
…re-watching Life of Brian
…a specific Anjan Dutta song – Niye Jaa (wonder where this sprang from?)
…curling up with a nice book…a Scottish noir perhaps – one from my current favorites in light reading – Ian Rankin…
…sip of Islay
Ok- back to work, or something.
….where the fugg did that year go ?
We much prefer the Ha-ja-ba-ra-la world, where age cycles between 10 and 40 (see the clip below for reference, relevant scene comes on at 4:20).
(apologies to non-Bengali speaking crowd who will forever be denied of Sukumar Ray’s comic genius, sorry !!).
So there is a small matter of absence for three months from blogging. I could have just brushed it under the carpet and resumed posting as if the last post was just yesterday. But I am going to trot out the usual lame excuses anyway, if only to get out of the rut of lack of blogging:
One, a move of hemispherical and continental proportions: Around mid-June, we bid farewell to the two years of fun-times in Ozland and returned to the USofA. In fact, moved to one of my favorite cities here. The move itself was quite blog-worthy, involving as it did, flying the longest commercial route in existence (eighteen hours and change non-stop) followed by separate 6-hour and 9-hour road-trips, still followed by another 8 eight hours of flight before reaching the final destination!
Two, change of jobs: but of course that had to happen along with/because of change in continents. It was somewhat of a chicken and egg – I wanted to come back and did because I got a job, and because I got a job I had to come back, or something (okay, so not much of a conundrum). Anyway, the bigger news I guess is the nature of the job – which is a major shift in what I had been doing for the last few years, having switched from academia to the euphemistic ‘dark side’. Perhaps more on this later.
Three, Twitter. Okay – so this is the lamest of all. Not totally blaming it on Twitter, but I find myself nowadays increasingly unable to break through the shackle of 140 characters. When I started blogging (as in both reading and writing blogs) many years ago, I realized that I was gradually losing the ability to read any reports longer than two three paragraphs ie the typical blog post. If a piece of news or comment was not wrapped up in that space, the mind would start wandering. Hopefully, Twitter won’t induce a far greater attention deficiency syndrome.
Anyhow, this here is the first step. The Dictator’s recent return to longer posts is bit of an inspiration as well. If any of the regulars are still around, look forward to more ranting and irrelevant posts pretty soon.
Not that I was very persevering at it, but the advent of Twitter seems to have cut into my already dismal state of blogging. Most off-the-cuff remarks I might have considered putting into a blog , I now find myself finishing in 140 characters or less. An example would be the early morning (by Australian time) Champions League final game between Barca and Man U. that Barca won through some superb midfield play, which in other circumstances, I might have devoted a paragraph or three, I Twittered (Tweeted? Twat ?) about.
For lazy bums such as myself, 140 characters or less is just too tempting; get the rush of sharing your (half-formed) thoughts with the world out of the way quickly – thoughtful analysis and introspection be dammed.
Then there are other advantages: you have a list of people who follow you on Twitter, and with judicious calculations of whether they are online (or will be) or a knowledge of their interest, you know you will attract their attention to your Tweet (Twit?). With blogs, it has recently become a crap-shoot: your RSS feeds (wow, that sounds so 2005-6ish!) could be on the subscription list of hundreds (mine isn’t), but most people, I suspect, dont bother reading beyond the first 140 characters anyway. However, this could be a problem with Twitter too: there are those insanes that ‘follow’ hundreds and thousands, and I have no idea if they actually read a quarter of them. But at least you are assurred of being skimmed over by a few, versus the neglect of all.
On balance however, I am not a big fan of Twitter. So call me old-fashioned and stuck in the Web2.0 age, but here goes some reasons:
First, I have noticed that the overall productivity of quite a few of my favorite bloggers has declined since the advent of widespread Twitter usage. This is a personal loss – I do get their Twitter updates, but often it gets lost under a mountain of trivial stuff. Blogs – I can read at leisure. Twitter – early mornings, I cannot be bothered beyond the 5th, or the 2nd if I haven’t had my coffee yet. So I assume I am missing out on the richness of much rants, fisks, and other such goodies.
Second, the tendency of many Twitters (Twats? Tweeters ?) to go on a self-absorbed chronicling of their everyday mundane activities is often disgusting, not to mention boring as hell (ok, so that was the third soy-latte-chai you had today morning, now get over it and be a man by ordering a triple-shot Venti or whatever abomination).
Finally, while Twitter can be put to good use in quick dissemination of information (e.g during the Mumbai blast) – or for interesting updates on the go with iPhones (e.g. a few droll observations by the ever reliable gawker from a suburban pub tonite) etc., the total misuse or worse, cluelessness, of the platform by many is absolutely irritating. A well known blogger and journalist I was following for a while suffered from the worst case of verbal diarrhoea I have had the misfortune of reading – his opinion seemed to be that the 140 characters limit was a simple inconvenience, easily abrogated by breaking up a blog-sized posting (never pithy to begin with) into 30-40 Twitters!! I exaggerate of course, but not by much.
So unfollow these people you miserable Luddite twat, I hear the cry goes. Rest assured, my Twitter following is kept at the bare minimum: I think I follow a little more than 30 people (!) – four of them are celebrities, or people who I consider celebrities (Stephen Colbert, Kal Penn, Mindy Kaling and Samit Basu), a few were reciprocal followers (I have stopped this now, unless I know the person) and why they wanted to follow me in the first place I don’t know, a couple are institutional Twitters (e.g NIH, CDC) and I plan to expand into this soon, and the rest are people whom I used to follow on their blogs, some I have met personally as well.
As such, I don’t think that Twitter is a very bad thing, but hope it will be put to better use.
Anyhow, there ends a not very brief rant. And now, excuse me while I link this to an Twitter update
: Even on a good week, less than 50% of putative blog posts actually get past the drafts stage.