Yorkshire Pudding is not pudding

I’ve got to admit, I didn’t know what Yorkshire pudding was either until my wife made some for a fancy meal years ago. We were entertaining a real food snob and Alex wanted to impress. Well, impress she did, as this guy had never had Yorkshire pudding outside of a restaurant.

So yesterday we were shopping for our Christmas meal and we got a standing rib roast. Just watching the butcher carve this beautiful meat, we decided to have him set aside a small portion for us to cook that very evening.

My wife is the chef and I am almost her sous chef. I prep stuff and clean dishes like no one’s business, but apparently that doesn’t get me the title of sous chef. According to Alex, I have to learn to actually put something together without her guidance, but exactly the way she would do it, before I can claim any such title.

I know my way around a kitchen, waited tables in some fine restaurants, and can even order in French when I have to, but I do not have the cooking finesse of my wife. The first thing I ever cooked her was a hastily broiled pork chop (yes I said broiled– I didn’t have a grill at the time). My second attempt was a pan-fried salmon, to only find out afterward she doesn’t like salmon. Third time was not a charm, as I did chicken and onions and zucchini with a Dijon-mayo sauce wrapped in tinfoil to cook. Maybe it was the presentation on that one, as the chicken came out pretty moist.

But I have yet to master Alex’s nuances. And trying to help someone like that is like trying to help Van Gogh paint. I’ll just clean those brushes for you, okay Vince?

I watched as Alex whipped up a couple eggs in a bowl, added some flour, and some milk. Then she turned to her magical spice drawers and grabbed a pinch of this and a pinch of that to add to the bowl before putting it in the fridge. Later, she pulled out the roast and told me to place the empty cupcake-looking pan in the still hot oven. “It’s empty,” I said. “I know,” she answered, as she does when I say something stupid. A few minutes later she had taken the drippings from the roast and had me remove the empty cupcake-like vessel so she could add a little pan dripping to the bottom of each cup. She then grabbed the cold egg, milk, flour and magic spice mix from the fridge and filled each cup with this concoction.

I saw all of that happen right in front of me, and I still don’t know if I could execute it. I did, however, help eat those perfectly puffed “puddings.” All of them. They don’t save, I swear.

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A Golden’s Last Bash

In LA we threw all the big event parties: New Year’s, Super Bowl, Oscars, Golden Globes…I think we even did a SAG Awards party—this was LA after all, where entertainment news often superseded the news of the world. One Super Bowl we decided to skip our hosting duties but we got so many calls from people wondering why they weren’t invited (to a non-existent party mind you) that we ended throwing an impromptu party anyway.

We haven’t continued that tradition in Atlanta, though we have had a few good bashes. This New Year’s was definitely a bash—good or bad? I’ll let you be the judge.

Alex prepped for days, cooking and cleaning and planning. A friend in PR from LA was coming by way of Alabama where he was spending the holidays hanging out with his family and friends. One such friend we had met before, so we invited her as well. About two days before the party, we got a call asking if she could bring her dog. It was an old golden retriever—usually a well-trained breed—so we said why not. Now just to preface, our house is not designed for dogs or kids: sharp corners, fragile items, lots of creams and whites, cats…. But so far, it had weathered visits from numerous kids and dogs.

I have a good number of Alabama friends, but that doesn’t keep me from freely admitting that most Alabamans I’ve met are crazy (the movie Crazy in Alabama was no mere coincidence). Laura turned out to fit the mold.

She showed up with her dog in the passenger seat after a 3-4 hour ride from Birmingham. She came right into the house, letting the dog lead the way without a leash (not a thought that the dog may need to go to the bathroom after such a long ride). The first thing the dog did was devour every last bite of our cat’s food and sloppily lap up every ounce of water from our cat’s bowl. By that time Laura had already disappeared to her guest room to take a shower, leaving the dog to his own devices.

Glasses full of red wine perched precariously on coffee tables were at just the right height for the golden’s tail to thump into. Plates of hors d’oeuvres full of meticulously laid out meats and cheeses and puffed pastries at just the right height for a golden’s mouth to devour.

About an hour later, Laura emerged (a little tipsy it seemed—or maybe this was just her nature) from her guestroom dressed in a bright red sequin-beaded gown. Her perfume entered the room before she did, and lingered well after she left. She grabbed a champagne glass and continued to ignore her dog who, by that time, we had kind of taken charge of and had sitting on the floor in our living room.

Plenty of interesting people had shown up in the meantime like our friends from India; a middle-age guy who works in digital media, and name-drops, with his young girlfriend in tow; a mother-daughter duo of which the mother gets more dates than the daughter, and who’s date this New Year’s was a stuffy guy in an ascot with a handkerchief sticking out of his blazer pocket (the middle-age name-dropper said he’d give anyone $100 to take the handkerchief out of “Stuffys” pocket, blow their nose in it, and put it back).

Alex had prepared a beautiful turkey and a ham with her usual fancy side dishes. She made gravy out of the pan drippings and had that set out next to the turkey in a gravy boat. On the other side of the turkey, next to the salad, there was another bowl filled with homemade balsamic dressing. “Stuffy” ended up pouring the salad dressing on his turkey, thinking it was gravy. The only reason we knew this was that he mentioned how unique the gravy was and Alex looked at his plate and recognized her balsamic dressing, not gravy. She thanked him for the compliment.

After dinner, the party worked its way into the family room. Guitars broke out and songs were sung. Then about mid-way through the song Yellow, by Coldplay, the golden decided to use the bathroom on our white rug—and yes it was yellow—very yellow.

Alex and I sprang to action and tried to towel up the mess. Laura was just standing there saying “oh my gosh”. By that point, I had about had it, and asked Laura if she’d ever trained her dog. This just brought out the “crazy” in Alabama as she burst out crying and went up to her room for the night—without her dog.

We went back to our regularly scheduled party and sang some more songs to ring in the New Year. Little did we know that the dog had snuck into the other room and helped himself to the remainder of our dinner. The ham carcass in the foyer was our first clue.

To top things off, we all went to bed around 2am, but were woken by a loud scratching and thumping sound a short 4 hours later. This was Laura’s dog making its way down our wood stairs so the two could try to sneak out before anyone was up. The dog was old, so had a hard time with stairs to begin with, and his nails had probably never been clipped. We woke up to see our stairs looking like the aftermath of an Edward Scissorhands and Freddy Kruger fight.

Laura at least had the decency to text that her dog had scratched our stairs and that she would pay for any repairs. Well, about a week later, and the day I was getting a quote on the stairs, we heard that the dog had died. I just didn’t have the heart to send her a bill after that.

So for our New Year’s efforts, we now have scratched up stairs and a white rug that had to be thrown out. And we’re still finding red sequins everywhere. Hey, at least the dog went out with a bash.

Maybe next year we’ll just sit on the couch and watch Ryan Seacrest’s shiny ball drop…. while digging out red sequins from the seat cushions.

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Shock and Awe and Awh

We had a party to tell our friends the news. Now in LA parties are tricky because you can plan for 20 and get 10, or not plan and get everyone and their brother and tag-alongs from the set your friends were on that day– like the time we had Jean Claude Van Damme’s stunt-double in our living room doing karate chops amongst the wine glasses, decanters and bottles.

A pretty solid theory as to why people don’t RSVP in LA is that everyone is looking for someone to give them their big break, and they don’t want to commit to your party in case one with more influential people comes up in the meantime. It must have been a slow week, as the turnout for our party was pretty good.

The announcement of our move was taken with a sense of shock and awe, and awh: Some were shocked that we would even consider leaving the promised land of sun, sand, palm trees and Pilates. Others were in awe that we would make such a big geographical, career, and lifestyle shift, and others were like “awh… I wish I could leave this smog-choked, cement-filled, overpriced desert too!”

Our LA bucket-list was pretty complete after living there for fifteen years but there were still quite a few to check off. We had never had sushi on top of the city at Yamashiro with 360 degree views and Japanese gardens inside and out— this is where Tarantino filmed one of his famous fight scenes. Alex had never been on the Beachwood Canyon horse ride to Burbank. Starting in the hills below the Hollywood sign, you wind your way up and over the mountain surrounded by nothing but trees and wildlife and then pop out above the 101 freeway to thousands of cars and humanity below. You then ride down the mountain and through a tunnel under the freeway to a Mexican joint. There’s a hitching post out front, just like in the westerns of old, where you park your horse and go in for margaritas and a meal. There was still Frank Gehry’s sweeping metal ship to visit. Anchored prominently downtown with the unfortunate Disney moniker…. And there were plenty more. But we’d be back…. right!?Shock and Awe and Awh

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