Monday, November 5, 2012
Election day is tomorrow but I've already voted and I'm proud to say that for the second time in my life I voted for Barack Obama.
It's not easy being a liberal in a mostly conservative section of Iowa but my surroundings have helped myself define what I believe in and why I believe in it.
Here's why I voted for Barack Obama this year:
- I trust him. I believe that he is doing what is right for our country and that he is a leader. He inherited a fiscal and economic mess and has done a VERY good job getting us back on the right direction. What about the $16 trillion debt, you might ask? Well, the current deficit is largely made up of costs associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan along with stimulus and TARP money designed to get us out of the worst economic crisis since the great depression. So don't tell me that Obama is a free-spending liberal. He's not.
- We need to reduce the debt and work toward a budget surplus. Romney will spend $5 trillion on tax cuts and increase defensive spending by $2 trillion. You can't find enough cuts to make up for $7 trillion in lost revenue. Obama will be brave in a second term and I think he'll push like hell for Bowles-Simpson to get passed (spending cuts AND tax increases). There is no real path forward for debt reduction without increases in revenue.
- He's the first President to support same-sex marriages and he is DEFINITELY on the right side of history with this - just look at how strongly young people favor equality over bigotry. I have many friends who are gay and they deserve every single right to be happy that I deserve.
- We're out of Iraq. Bin Laden is dead. We're getting out of Afghanistan. Questions about Benghazi? Really? You're raising a fit about Benghazi but didn't mind when we went to war with a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks?
- I think every American DESERVES the right to health care. A lot of misinformation is out there in regard to Obamacare and I'm certainly no expert but this is a step in the right direction. Premiums have been going up by double digits year after year and something needed to be done. Parts of Obamacare may not be perfect but it's a good framework for improved access to health care and a reduction in the cost of health care.
- Mitt Romney changes his positions on a whim, has no foreign policy experience and I honestly believe that he believes that providing more money to rich people will strengthen the economy when income inequality has only been increasing and the middle class continues to get hit. Directing money to the rich and hoping it trickles down is voodoo economics.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
On a narrow street in the Born district of Barcelona, is one of the world's top restaurants (in my opinion at least) - Comerç, 24. Chef Carles Abellán is the protégé of Ferran Adriá who envisioned El Bulli - widely considered to be the best restaurant in the world until it closed in 2011 so Adriá could pursue other projects.
Eating at a restaurant of this quality was one of my 30 goals to accomplish by the time I turned 30 and on May 3rd I crossed this one off the list!
Joining me for this incredible experience was my buddy Andrew Blum who traveled with me in Spain for a week. We were both absolute newbies to this type of dining experience but we quickly adjusted!
The meal started with a selection of 3 fresh breads and 4 Spanish olive oils along with sea salt. They also brought out a wine list with only glasses of Spanish cava (champagne) at 6€ per glass (not too bad really).
The next decision for the meal involved what tasting menu we were going to select. After reading a lot of online reviews before coming here I knew that it was going to be the most expensive meal of my life, so we decided to go big and go with the 12 course Grand Festival Menu at 106€ each (Blum saved me some money on the flight so I was covering the check for this meal).
Our awesome waiter let us know that this was an excellent selection and then the sommelier came over to take our wine order. The sommelier turned out to be our favorite server of the evening. He obviously knew a TON about wine and he helped us pick some great value wines starting with a Spanish Vionta Albariño (white) and later in the meal an incredible Remelluri Reserva Rioja (red) - both were under 30€ per bottle.
The Albariño paired perfectly with the seafood - it had an awesome citrus flavor but wasn't overly sweet. The Rioja was a rich, complex red and the sommelier said it was an outstanding wine for the price. We agreed!
Now to the meal.
The opening course was a cold cauliflower soup with smoked tea and nori, cauliflower with ginger and rice vinegar served on a stone and monkfish sashimi with black sesame and black garlic (above). At this point we knew we were in for something special. Each dish had such complex flavors while also seeming so simple and thoroughly enjoyable.
Next was Pizza 24. A flatbread cracker with mozzarella, anchovy, greens and a strawberry. A strange combination but absolutely brilliant. Each ingredient was of the highest quality.
And then we were served filo dough stuffed with Parmesan cheese, lemon and basil. The lemon flavor became increasingly intense until the basil leaf polished the dish off with a perfect note. This is in the point in the meal that we just started laughing with delight. And the adventure was only beginning...
Each dish was served with an explanation of what was before us but we constantly had to ask questions about what each ingredient was (sometimes having difficulty understanding our server's English). This dish, of course, was a large oyster on a bed of ice with beet root foam on top. My first foam experience and the texture was indescribably fun. Like cotton candy melting in your mouth - the oyster happily sliding its way into your throat.
Now for my favorite dish of the meal.....beach shrimp ceviche in a peach wine broth. The shrimp was nice and cold. The onion slice added a little crunch but the star of the dish was the peach wine. I've been lucky enough to have some of the best ceviche on earth in Lima, Peru, and this was even better. I ended up drinking the broth from the saucer - not wanting to waste a drop of this perfection.
The seafood continued with cockles and sea urchin in a cold Japanese dashi broth. Most of my friends would never eat this dish but the brave ones would be rewarded with an incredible reward of outstanding seafood in a salty broth. I wonder if you can even buy cockles and sea urchin anywhere in Iowa?
Another highlight of the meal was this tuna sashimi on a cracker with some other shit that I can't even remember right now and my notes made no mention of. At this point in the meal, I wrote into my iPhone - "This is art. The Da Vinci of food. Mind blowing. Wow."
I remember repeatedly saying "Wow" over and over again during this meal. There would be long periods of silence between Blum and I - we just couldn't describe what we were experiencing. I'm trying to do this place justice through my words and iPhone pictures but I'm sure it's all being lost in translation.
As a sardine novice I didn't know what to expect when this dish was presented but once again it blew our minds. Three beautiful pieces of sardine with orange, micro greens and wasabi (not the paste version of sushi restaurants but the grated form).
Here is tuna tartar with an egg yolk at the bottom and salmon eggs that popped in the mouth like candy with a juice filling. So fucking amazing. (Side note: we're probably about 2 hours into the meal at this point but we totally lost track of time. The meal ended up lasting from about 8:45 pm to 12:30 am and it was not because of slow service. It takes a long time to serve this much food and we savored every moment of it!)
Our next seafood course was squid with black sausage, fresh peas and mint. I hate peas but loved these because they were garden fresh and the mint was a classic combo. The squid was perfectly prepared and all of these ingredients somehow matched perfectly together with a buttery sauce tying it all together.
This is french onion soup with a beautiful egg and crunch croutons. The egg was perfect. Absolutely perfect. I went to take a bite with my spoon and the yolk ran out into the broth - the dish recreating itself before my eyes. The broth was nice and salty. The spoon was small so we could savor each bite. The course ended with the bowl up to my lips once again. Slurp. Next course please.
The next course was the famous Kinder Egg. "What's in it?" we asked. "Some things must remain a surprise," the waiter replied. We'd later discover it was a mashed potato foam with black truffles at the bottom of the egg. It was my first experience with truffles and I couldn't believe how earthy they were...mushrooms on steroids. Very intense flavor.
Then we moved to the rabbit with rice, cubes of apple and shavings of lime. The rabbit was so perfectly cooked - tasted a lot like good chicken thigh and the rice was not at all dry. The cubes of apple were a brilliant touch and added a great crunch to the dish. For me, it was another highlight and another excellent experience eating rabbit!
Friday, April 6, 2012
Why is it that we know what is important in life but we so often move away from the important things?
I've always been a list maker. You may remember that I made a list of 30 thing to do before I turn 30. I made this list over a year ago and have accomplished only 3 of the goals. I have some work to do.
For the month of April, I made a list of things to give up - a friend is calling it "monk month."
My hope is that by giving up some of the less important items in my life I can focus on my larger goals like running longer distances, eating healthier, traveling more, spending more time with friends and less time with my TV.
Here's what I've decided to give up or cut back on for April:
- No TV (except for The Masters and Game of Thrones on Sunday nights)
- No Movies
- No Soda of any kind
- No fast food and no pizza
- No Alcohol (with just a couple exceptions)
So here's what is on the horizon for me as I try to check back into Hotel Nirvana...
I've been taking Rosetta Stone in order to become fluent in Spanish (goal #1).
I'm following a marathon training program right now to get ready for Grandma's Marathon in Duluth in June and I've registered for the Twin Cities Marathon in October (goal #18).
In May I'm getting Lasik eye surgery done (goal #28).
At the end of April, I'm taking a trip to Spain with a buddy and the plan is to see a FC Barcelona soccer match (goal #16) and also eat at a world-class molecular gastronomy restaurant (goal #22).
There are many more goals to work toward but I'm in a good place right now. More focused. More determined.
It's a good Friday to remember that we have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to accomplish during our journey.
Enjoy the ride,
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
A city asks a lot of you. It calls for you to enjoy its vistas. Its soil demands that you take great care to produce the finest quality foods – so that savoring the gastronomical delights of this specific patch of earth allows you to marry the food and the land together in your memory. The sweet corn of a small town in Iowa. The acidity of ceviche in Lima. The salty jamon of Barcelona. The lardo di Colonnata.
A city allows you to come and it allows you to leave. The city has a special power so that you often leave with regret and enter with great joy.
The buildings of cities can be incredibly familiar and mysteriously unknown. You know the naves, crevices, nooks and crannies of your local church yet you enter the majestic Notre Dame with awe and trepidation – not knowing what mysteries and stories have taken place within her walls in your absence.
Running through the many alleys and pathways of a small town can take years – in larger cities, you will never know all of the roads that lead to homes, restaurants, and places of work.
A city can be an extension of your identity and a city’s identity can be an extension of the persona of its inhabitants. The authors, composers, artists, architects, and athletes all defining the existence of a place that could otherwise have been left empty.
Can you imagine a London without Shakespeare? Can you imagine a Vienna without Mozart? What about a Florence without Da Vinci? A modern Paris without the Eiffel Tower...surely not. Or what would Chicago now be without Michael Jordan or Oprah?
So the city continues to exist because we continue to live collectively. Our life intertwining with other lives in many different places.