Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Flight of The Stereotypes

This is one of those moments when I wish that I had practiced one of the much-valued lessons of blogging: batch writing. I've been off the grid for about a week, and gratefully so, but my blog has not seen a post for several days as I've returned to my hometown of St. Marys for a visit. The week thus far has already been one of emotional intensity; both sad and gratifying. I have much to write about in the coming days, but first I want to recount my day of flying last Friday.

The business of flying has always been a tricky one and is often fraught with frustrations of various sorts. I actually relish flying in and of itself....the often stunning aerial views of the places I fly in and out of; the sight of rising to cruising altitude, when you see the cloud formations from above...its often a breathtaking sight. Reflecting back, I even felt that way during the most challenging flight of my life: that terrifying flight from Boston to Charlotte many years ago. On that excruciating excursion, Keith and I were on a flight that tried to circle around a major storm but Mother Nature refused to be outsmarted and we instead descended right through it. Lightning struck the plane twice; the flight attendant wound up in a passenger's lap and it felt as if we traveling in a dryer on spin cycle. I remember wishing that I could tell my family that I loved them and wishing that I was sitting next to Keith as opposed to the astoundingly serene young man next to me reading Dostoevsky. The heroic pilots got us through safely and their actions became one of the reasons why I'm still not afraid to fly. I have always loved storms and continue to love them....prior to the scares, I thrilled to watching the storms from afar: the lightning dancing around and above the dark, foreboding clouds was an awe-inspiring sight.

The frustrations that have arisen over the past several years have come more from the airports and the actual business of flying. Flying remains the easiest way for me to return to my hometown but its become considerably more challenging lately. The poor economy and the rising gas prices make it difficult to find a good flight deal. Post 9/11, the new body scanners seem necessary but feel humiliating and refusing them can result in a patdown that can make you feel even more violated. I was flying out of Kansas City, after all, which is the airport recently garnering national attention for patting down an infant.

After checking in at KCI last Friday, I proceeded to the security checkpoint and as always, I have to steel myself a bit before beginning the process. I watched as a family with two small children removed their shoes and walked one by one through the metal detector. The security personnel, one of them pictured in the infamous infant patdown, were extraordinarily kind to the two kids but were as serious about the job as ever. I then walked through myself and was summarily waved on. As I sat to put my own shoes back on, I watched as the young Middle Eastern man behind me walked through and was then moved to the holding area to be patted down and have a wand waved over him. He seemed utterly unmoved for being singled out and I found my own thoughts were two-natured and battling for dominance. Is it fair for him to be singled out? Is it not? Nearly ten years ago, I stood in a parking lot in Washington, DC watching planes take off from Reagan Airport before my supervisor picked me up to drive us past the Pentagon to our meeting with other managers at a Marriott hotel about a mile up the road. About ninety minutes later, while we watched the horror of the Twin Towers falling from our conference room TV, a plane leaving Reagan Airport would crash into the Pentagon; killing hundreds. This past Friday, the flight this young Middle Eastern man and I would board was bound for Dulles Airport in DC for a layover.

Once in Dulles, an entirely different set of circumstances was about to unfold. I was stoked to discover a Five Guys at the airport and quickly leapt in line to order one of their most awesome burgers. Anyone who knows Five Guys Burgers, a DC original, knows that this ain't no McDonalds: you may have to wait a little longer but that beautifully succulent burger is always worth the wait. Sure enough, the guy waiting in front of me was sucking down beers and loudly complaining that "there were six people working behind there and it seems like they ought to able to put out food a little quicker. Maybe they do things different wherever they're from" (they all appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent). I told him that Five Guys is always worth the wait but he just grunted, grabbed his food and stalked off.

Later on at boarding time, four flights were about to board simultaneously and we were told to listen carefully as these flights... to Indy, Altoona, Pa, Charleston, WV and you guessed it, Charleston, SC were all boarding passengers at the same time. The folks announcing this were a pair of ladies; one Hispanic and one Asian and they were both using heavily accented English. It took me several minutes to realize "Indiana Police" was Indianapolis and for all of us it became a scene right out of the movie Airplane: several stops and starts; getting in the wrong line many times and growing frustration. My parents never raised me to be racist and always encouraged me to accept differences in other folks. Nonetheless, I felt that creeping sensation into my brain stem.....I could hear the echoes in my head...the ugliness was circling: "Why can't they speak good English?"

About the time those unspoken thoughts were entering my head, it happened: a middle-aged woman sidled up beside me and furrowed her brow and said, "What the hell are those people saying?" I looked at her up and down, noted the Nascar t-shirt and replied, "I'm not sure. Where are you headed?" She answered and I quote...

"West By God Virginia if these damn foreigners ever get us on the right plane."

...and there it was. As those sadly familiar thoughts entered my mind, I was slammed back into reality by the prejudices of another, not to mention the stereotype this woman herself displayed; one, in fact, that also tends to include me as a West Virginian. As a proud West Virginian, it got to me but good....I bristled at her prejudice and I suddenly envisioned this person getting into a confrontation with the airline workers. That became more about my own expectations again and she was perfectly well-behaved the entire flight. I was caught up in my own ego; fretting about everyone's perception of this woman representing what every West Virginian is like. In the end, I still felt like the only person truly judging everyone around me.

I boarded my flight and despite the Flying Winnebago with propellers that I flew on into Charleston, everything for the most part added up to a relatively smooth day of flying. I thought back on the day and reflected on my own ongoing battle with labeling and stereotyping other folks. I have been stereotyped my entire life....as a gay man, as a West Virginian, as a small-town boy. I've lived the labels of being too thin and too fat. I found prejudice in every job I worked: working with challenged children (how can you work with those hopeless kids?), in the restaurant business (why don't you get a real job?), as a wedding coordinator (isn't that a job for a woman?) or bookselling (re: real job). I battle with being labeled every day yet it still creeps into my own thinking. The labeling will never end but I can at least abolish it from my own thinking once and for all and try to be a better example.

The business of flying is like anything else in life: we all need to coexist and work together if we want it to go smoothly. I needed everyone Friday and I was color-blind in my need..I needed the folks working at all three airports, the pilots and flight attendants and certainly my fellow passengers to make this one day in the eternally tricky business of flying to make for a serene and safe experience and they, for the most part, did just that. I've had some deep conversations about labeling lately and realize that I still have work to do and work on it I will.

One last thought...the heroic flight staff that got us through that horrific flight many years ago? Two pilots: one white, one Asian. Two flight attendants: one black, one Asian. All heroes.

Just sayin'.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

In Retrospect

In retrospect, I realize the hazard of joshing about apocalyptic subject matter when a community barely 150 miles south of KC has damn near experienced it. I will always believe in leavening the crap with humor, but you can't find humor in the tragic aftermath of the tornadoes in Joplin, MO. At this point, we've learned of 24 confirmed deaths and a nursing home in dire need.

My thoughts and prayers are with the folks of Joplin. Go to the American Red Cross site to learn how to help them.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cooking Like It's Apocalypse Now

It appears that according to some, the beginning of The End is upon us. I'm lucky that if indeed the Rapture occurs, if Left Behind, I'll be with Keith in our home. We are going to be cooking and I'm planning to have dinner ready promptly at 6 pm which is supposed to be the moment It begins. At present, Keith has finished mowing and is, and I quote, "groping some trees". Pruning is the correct term but he prefers groping, and well, The End is near, so grope away!

If indeed it is the End Of Times, it seems we ought to try to eat well for the last meal. That may fly in the face of conventional wisdom as many believe that I should be repenting to beat the band. I suppose I should but if it is The End and God is indeed the All-Knowing; I guess He will just judge me as He sees fit.....as He is the only one with a right to, as far as I'm concerned. Otherwise, we are planning to celebrate this gift of life that we've been given.

I've busted out the two remaining filets that Lisa gifted us from Omaha Steaks. We are preparing them Au Poivre style, which is something I have been jonesing to try as that peppery flavor is one of my favorite steak preps. When I worked at (or on?) the beloved Becky Thatcher in Marietta, Ohio we featured an Au Poivre steak on our menu that I loved. Our Filet au Poivre recipe is coming from Ina Garten's Barefoot In Paris cookbook and you can find it here. We will be serving the steaks with an Herb Salad from the A New Way To Cook cookbook and Strawberry Dessert Pizza With Brandy Scented Goat Cheese and Mint from an Emeril recipe. While cooking, I played a little Joan Osborne in the background and sipped a wickedly scarlet brew....a sweet Belgian Frambois Lambic.

The salad, like the Marcella Hazan recipe during my last Cookbook Challenge, uses the simplest and freshest of ingredients and brings out their garden-grown goodness. The lettuces came from an acquaintance of Keith's named Kimberly, who also gifted us with some farm-fresh eggs. This recipe from Sally Schneider's A New Way To Cook has one rubbing the inside of the salad bowl with the cut side of a garlic half to kick off and then attaching two garlic clove halves to a fork that's then used as a whisk. It also includes various types of greens but we went with the lettuce we had. We did use fresh chives and basil (that Keith grew)but the sorrel K recently bought was not ready. The recipe as we made it will follow the post.

The dessert pizza is a typically complicated Emeril recipe that pays off with a big Bam of flavor in the end. The recipe, from Emeril's Kitchens cookbook calls for Grand Marnier but the cheapest bottle I could find was forty bucks and I'm not spending that for a half-cup needed....we went with a cheaper orange liqueur. The recipe also calls for Armagnac or brandy and since brandy is what we had on hand, that's what we went with. You can find the recipe here.

The steaks in the end were marvelous. We sopped up that savory sauce with everything we had. The salad was bright with lemony and garlicky flavors and made those garden-grown greens shine. The dessert pizza was incredible....and I want to use the goat cheese mixed with honey and brandy as a condiment alone. These count as Cookbook Challenge recipes #59, 60 and 61.

I sheepishly admit that this close to a possible Rapture, my thrill over the pizza dough raising properly nearly had me crying, "It Arose!" but I resisted. I'm getting a fair amount of possibly tacky mileage over the predicted end of the world and I don't mean to attack or mock anyone's beliefs. I dealt with impending doom the way I deal with anything challenging: as well as I can and preferably with humor. If indeed the end had come, I couldn't have asked for a better last scenario...

....we began the day early helping man a rest stop for the Liberty Bike Ride For MS. We enjoyed a juicy burger and delicious onion rings at classic Ray's Diner in Excelsior Springs where vintage Archie comics line the wall. Keith has often told me that he feels closest to God when he's in his garden, digging his fingers in the earth and he got to do that all afternoon. I felt pretty close to God myself, using fresh, fragrant herbs like spicy globe basil (a sweet, crazily aromatic basil), chives and mint from the garden to create something flavorful to eat. The weather turned spectacular during the day, with warm rays parting the clouds.

If these were our last moments, then God was smiling down on us in the end...6 pm passed without incident and as God was willing, it was a fantastic day.

Herb Salad (inspired by the recipe in A New Way To Cook, reworked cheaply but deliciously by Us)

Garlic Dressing

1 garlic clove, cut lengthwise in half
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of kosher salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fruity extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon hot water

Fresh garden lettuces
1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
5 chives, cut into 1/8 inch pieces
Freshly ground pepper

Rub the cut side of one of the cut garlic cloves over the inside of a large salad bowl. Add the lemon juice and salt. Spear both garlic halves on a dinner fork. Using this as a whisk, drizzle in the olive oil and then the hot water, whisking until you've reached the intensity of garlic that you like. Discard the garlic.

Add the greens and herbs and toss well. Grind some black pepper over the salad, toss again and serve.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Random Bites: Adventures With Tea and An Ode To My Fellow Booksellers

I've been remiss in following up concerning the success of my friends Alan and Marlys; the creators of Adventures with Tea. You may recall a Foodie Five post that I did with these two a while back and since then their own adventures with tea are getting them even more well-deserved attention. Alan and Marlys have been hosting cooking demos with tea; one recently at the new Hy-Vee at Liberty, where they've been demonstrating their prowess at not only creating exciting and flavorful dishes but showcasing their own impressive line of teas. These cooking demos are just the beginning...they offer not only their wonderful teas(my favorite being the Creme de la Creme Brulee) but opportunities to host your own tea-tasting adventure. I was most excited and honored to be asked to offer my first blurb as The Confounded Cook on their recipe card collection. I do indeed enjoy the teas and I'm including their recipe card collection in my Cookbook Challenge so I'll be making one of their delectable-sounding recipes. I have already made a G'Day Orange Juice using the G'Day Berry loose tea and it was delicious. I'm thinking about the Smoky Cheddar Biscuits for the challenge recipe. As I said in the recipe collection quote, Bravo Alan and Marlys!

Writing about Alan is a good segue to my second random bite which refers to my bookstore job. I first met Alan when we were bookstore co-workers. I've written often of my lifelong love affair with books and all things related to the written word. Despite the advent of e-readers, I still relish the feel and smell of a book and its pages. I feel comforted by being in the very presence of filled bookshelves, as if I've discovered a treasure chest that is begging to be rummaged through. As I continue learning to cook and blogging about it, my cookbooks in particular have become my new book collecting obsession and each of them has something enlightening to offer. In fact, right now, my store is featuring a table of The Confounded Cook's favorite cookbooks and food writing.

The book industry is weathering great and powerful challenges these days and all of us are feeling it. One bookstore chain has already closed its doors and that's tragic for the folks losing their jobs and depressing for the book industry as a whole. E-readers, including our own, are selling like gangbusters and if that keeps people, particularly children reading, than I'm all for it. In fact, we own one ourselves and thoroughly enjoy it and in the end, didn't keep us from buying regular books. I admit, though, that I fret a bit about the long-term impact of e-readers and the struggles of our industry but not for the reasons you may think. I think books will survive in whatever form readers may choose but I worry about the loss of bookselling jobs. Lord knows I'm a fan of the independent bookstores and have certainly been a customer of theirs many a time but there is only so many folks that these shops can employ and benefits are quite often not an option. I know, I'm on a bit of a stream-of-consciousness drip here. My point is that while books are most assuredly treasures, the booksellers I've worked with over the years are some of the finest folks I would ever hope to know and I care about what happens to them.

We booksellers might be bound by our love of books or language or words. Many of us tend to be pop culture aficionados and share our loves of film and music. It might just be the shared experiences of our job, be they good or bad. We may be bonded by the fact that many of us got into the industry because we loved the bookstore atmosphere only to learn that bookselling has its own unique challenges. It could even be the occasional mutually raised eyebrow as when a customer comes through buying Tantric Sex For Dummies....as a wedding gift. There might even be simultaneous bitten tongues when a customer asks for psychology books by Siegfried and Roy. I digress....

In my decade with the book business, some of the best friends I've ever had have come from the book industry. From Washington DC to here in KC, there are many a bookseller, current of former, who are a part of my life and I treasure them all. They have been with me through thick and thin, including when I myself have been both thick and thin. Facebook has allowed me to stay in touch with my former co-booksellers and thanks to the wonders of technology, I've been able to share in two of my DC cohort's special moments: the birth of Ali's first child and Natalie's marriage proposal. I also still get together with my most awesome Plaza cohorts Ashley, Jeff and Angelo.

My current bookstore has a collection of folks that are true blue booksellers and friends. I met my best KC friend Ronnie there, my friends Linda, Jane and Jo would be part of our first dinner party group and as co-workers moved away, I would end up with friends all over the world. One of those friends Misty was recently married in England and some of my co-workers flew over to attend. Many of my fellow booksellers are also brilliant at customer service but they really shine when it comes to helping out a fellow bookseller in need. They make and bring food for birthdays or to contribute when a bookseller had lost a loved one. They host parties for farewells, engagements, baby showers or just as an excuse to get together. Most notably, they surround a fellow bookseller with love and support in times of need. One of our fellow booksellers and their family recently survived but lost much of their belongings in a devastating fire. Barely a breath was wasted before people started to rally 'round and provide aid; be it monetary or to help moving.....because that's what they do.

There are certainly, as with any business dealing with people, difficult customer issues that can make for a rough shift. I could elaborate for days, as could my fellow booksellers, on odd or challenging customer interactions. There are, however, moments with customers that can be life-altering as well. Since the days of caring for my parents and my Dad's passing, I find myself offering words of sympathy and comfort for the customers who ask me for books on eldercare and Alzheimer's. This week, I helped a stroke victim who could barely speak find a book (and his lost phone) and did it with a significant lump in my throat. Also this week, I got a soldier leaving for Afghanistan set up with an e-reader and just yesterday helped a woman tearfully searching for books on grief for three children who watched their parents die in the Alabama tornadoes. There are actually many moments like these that sometimes get lost in the wake of dealing with difficult customers. Bookselling is most assuredly an honorable profession and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Many of my fellow booksellers are terrific teachers. Many of them are also world travelers. They all have a quality that I find irresistible: an insatiable desire for discovery and to continue learning. Whatever the future of the book industry, I will forever be grateful for my fellow booksellers.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mojo Paste, Rolled Oat Cookies and Squeezing Onions: The Cookbook Challenge Rocks My World

Every now and then, I get dinner completely right and every course is a success. This latest episode of the Cookbook Challenge was one of those pristine moments. I was literally digging into my food with one hand and waving Hallelujah with the other....I was that pleased. Allow me to tell you about it...

The salad was a recipe from Italian master Marcella Hazan's classic cookbook Marcella Says. The ingredients were sparse and simple but the process was most intriguing; in particular, the prep of the red onion. The salad consists of red onion, avocado and red pepper. As she says, were she in Northern Italy in the spring, the sweet red onions made available would render this process unnecessary. Since it is a cold-ass afternoon in Cowtown, I apparently need to prep the red onion. As directed by Hazan, the red onion is diced and then plunged into a bowl of cold water. The onions are then removed and firmly squeezed by hand. The water is then changed out and the entire process is repeated 2-3 times. In order to master this myself, I had to use two bowls of cold water in order to change the water out. This seems like a lot of extra work but the end result is completely worth it. The onions are then left soaking while the red pepper and avocado are sliced. The juice of 1 fresh lemon is squeezed on to the avocado to keep it from browning. The onion is drained, squeezed dry with paper towels and added to the red pepper and avocado. A couple of tablespoons of choice red wine vinegar and four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil as well as a generous throw of sea salt and several cranks of fresh ground pepper and toss it up. Perfect summer salad...the onions are bright and sweet and become the unlikely highlight of the salad....these onions are real and they're spectacular.

The main course was the Funky Southwest Roasted Pork Tenderloin from Emeril's Potluck cookbook. As he says, the key to the burst of flavor in this dish is the Mojo Paste. Like the chimichurri sauce I made in a previous post, its one of those creations largely involving fresh herbs (cilantro the K-Man grew included) that doesn't taste like much at first and after it sat for a few hours and communed with the pork in the oven, it became a mighty condiment. This was some beautiful pork and it paired nicely with the avocado salad. You can catch Emeril's recipe with some different sides here.

We finished off the meal with some chocolate-oat cookies from the Cookies cookbook by Atkinson, Barrett and Farrow. I had to adjust some cooking times in between batches as our oven; that last vestige of Seventies-style appliances in our otherwise renovated kitchen, doesn't quite maintain heat to match the setting. None of the batches were sub-par though and we enjoyed them immensely.

It was a fantastic dinner.... an abundance of flavor. These dishes count as Cookbook Challenge # 56, 57 and 58.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Art! The Music! The Madness! Second Fridays Strikes Again

It was time once again for Second Fridays and despite the damp and chilly setting, the event rocked on and has truly established a creative atmosphere that entices you to come and soak it all up. Downtown Excelsior Springs really put on the dog last night and as far as I'm concerned, completely outdid themselves.

This monthly event typically centers around art and artists and while these were certainly on grand display, the music really sent me soaring last night. The businesses established some serious atmosphere...dazzling art, fascinating artists, flavorful food and a fantastic and diverse array of musicians. My distractions were legion last night...I found myself so repeatedly mesmerized by the people, the art and the music that I needed to snap myself out of it and move on to the next business to try to take everything in. Last night was so abundant with creativity and entertainment on and around Broadway that it was a challenge...albeit a fun one..to check it all out.

The evening began with me helping Keith set up for the Celtic band called Shortleaf in the Hall of Waters (they were supposed to be playing outside but moved them inside to spare them the ill wind). I moved on to the Gallery Off Broadway; as I'd been anticipating the shindig in their surreal corner of the universe: new artists with fascinating pieces, a new Corkscrews and Canvas class and the return of Billy Beale's smooth tuneage. I met artist Barbara Akers of the Northland Art League who showed off her wood-burning work as well as artist Kelly Berkey of Minnesota displaying her grand designs. Kevin put out another sumptuous spread, featuring satay-style chicken and beef with marvelous sauces including bourbon barbecue and my new favorite: honey-chile. Fortified by the nibbles and a mango martini, we were off to stroll the other businesses...

We stopped by Broadway and Penn, which was packed and featured a band as well as the gorgeous artwork of Sherie Renne. Willow Spring Mercantile's artist was the ebullient Stacey Cahalan displaying her awesome cardboard constructs, candles and Blue Raddish Studio co-op coolness. The Merc's musicians were Stone Corner Choir. We had dinner at Willow Spring and I found myself a bit spellbound by the stirring folk harmonies of this talented pair....and let's face it, anything that distracts me from my food must be something else, indeed. Not that the food wasn't fighting hard for my attention....Daphne's spicy, creamy hot bacon dip and beautiful spinach salad with candied walnuts, dried cranberries, red onion and marbled croutons had us swooning. Did I mention the warm croissants with housemade honey-vanilla butter? Well, I am now....damnation, they were good. Mix in an ice-cold Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale by Boulevard and a harmonious version of I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry floating around us....well, I could've kicked back right there for the rest of the night.

Keith's duty as downtown director called and we moved on down the street. Ventana Grill was showing off the artistic talents of one of their own employees: Natalie Randall and her detailed work. I returned to the Gallery where the C and C class was in full swing and gobsmacked to realize that someone actually built that wild woman Kathleen a stage. The point is that the classes continue to grow and folks were struggling to see Kathleen. Fine, but Great Maker, we've let that woman loose on a stage.....where will this lead? Only time and wine will tell....

I was presented with the opportunity to conduct a brief interview with one of the other visiting artists to the G.O.B.-the enigmatic Jonny Feelgood. I was already somewhat fascinated with this young artist just from visiting his website. His artwork seems to reveal him as a man of a thousand faces in a sense.....he is clearly involved with multiple types of creativity. I was taken by his video work and he told me that his first passion was filmmaking. While speaking with him, I learned that his personality matched the diversity of his artwork....although, that isn't obvious at first. Jonny's voice was a soft, Southern-tinged lilt that was at times difficult to follow but soon became melodious in its own right and somewhat hypnotic. Listening to Jonny talk about his art, his loves, his life is like witnessing some type of soft-spoken performance art...I found myself mesmerized; hanging on every word. Jonny's wisdom and insight belie his youthful appearance; his still waters run seriously deep. My favorite Jonny Feelgood painting is The Solidarity Tree. I believe his masterpiece is yet to come....and when it does, it might just blow our minds.

After my interview with young Mr. Feelgood, I sat for awhile; again absorbed in some stunning music. The sultry blues of Billy Beale got an astoundingly able assist by Kevin Morgan's brilliant flute playing. Listening to these two play off each other was blissful....once again, I just wanted to curl up on the overstuffed sofa and wallow in that smooth and soothing music....and I did for awhile. After a few minutes, Molly and I walked over to the Hall to take in the Celtic goodness of the Shortleaf band. These folks played some gorgeous Irish music with accordions, violins and mandolins and the music just soared and danced through those art deco corridors. Their music was an Irish blessing that was positively bewitching.

K and I ventured over to catch the PyroSapiens unleash some fiery fun poolside at the Elms. Their flaming performance had everyone watching in awe; from the Library Lounge crowd to the wedding party from the Grand ballroom. Their pyrotechnic performance was the perfect way to cap off the night. Driving home, I reviewed the night in my head and thought: By Jove, these fine folks of Excelsior Springs have done it. They've worked damn hard to get it right and they truly have....many of the downtown businesses have worked together to create a fantastic atmosphere of diverse creativity that draws you in and then makes you want to just settle in and spend the evening just absorbing it all.

Bravo, Downtown Excelsior!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Best. Shopping List. EVER.

As I'm thinking of what to put on my own shopping list, I found the one pictured at left on Funny Or Die. Creativity alive in even the mundane....nice.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sexy Mama Sushi, Roasted Beet Ice Cream and a Showgirls Slam

The perfect weather Saturday night required the pursuit of an evening to match so we sought out tons of fun and found it in spades. Ronnie and Jeff joined us for a night out and a typical night with these fine fellows generally involves hearty laughter. Continuing the streak, we headed downtown to attend our first Screenland Slam.
The burning need for some scrumptious sushi took precedence though, so we hit the hip and happening Nara-A Japanese Robata for dinner. Dazzled by the sleek and modern d├ęcor, Ronnie and I ordered up cocktails. Not a simple decision; this-the wine list is extensive and impressive and the sake list is downright intimidating. The server was helpful and we went with some bright, citrusy cocktails to pair with the brilliant weather. Ronnie chose a cranapple-ginger drink with vodka, ginger liqueur, apple pucker, sour and cranberry. I went with the lemon three-way: ginger-lemongrass infused vodka with lemoncello and lemonade…like a sunrise in a glass. We sipped these fine elixirs, enjoyed our excellent view over the patio and decided on our sushi. Between us, we ordered six rolls:
-Vegas Roll-salmon, crab mix, cream cheese tempura fried and bedded over eel sauce (pictured at left with spider roll)
- Jalapeno Popper Roll- jalapeno tempura-fried with cream cheese, avocado, yuzu mayo sauce and dynamite sauce
-Spider Roll-cucumber, deep-fried soft shell blue crab and kani-kama (imitation crab)
-Happy Family Roll-lobster salad, tempura shrimp, cucumber, apple, avocado, jalapeno wrapped in soy paper with eel sauce
-Sexy Mama Roll-spicy tuna roll topped with escolar and avocado layered over sliced orange and tempura flakes drizzled yuzu ponzu with fish egg (pictured at right)
-Eel Roll-fresh-water eel with cucumber and avocado and eel sauce
We thoroughly enjoyed all of our rolls but our agreed-upon favorites were the Happy Family and the Jalapeno Popper. The Happy Family conjures up an anime-like vision of goofy joy but it packs some type of happy, scary spice that had us all gulping our waters. The sushi was super-good and had we been visiting the previous night we might have experienced the oddball body sushi. Best not to repeat the barrage of rude humor this precipitated.
Motoring over to the south end of the Plaza, we returned to our favorite house of nouveau ice cream goodness at Glace. Adding our suburban behinds to the long line of hipsters waiting to be seduced by Christopher Elbow’s palette-teasing ice cream flavors; I took a quick opportunity to try the flavor that won a Facebook contest….roasted beet and goat cheese ice cream. It sounds a tad wretched, I know….but it was amazing. In the end, I chose my favorites Venezuelan dark chocolate and Fleur De Del caramel….yum.
Finally, we arrived at the main event: the Screenland Slam. The premise is several comedians posted at the front of a theater providing running hilarious commentary as a bad and/or campy movie flickers on screen. The film in this case was howler classic Showgirls and the comedians included a director of a local School of Rock and drag performer extraordinaire Daisy Buckets. Showgirls is bad enough that its own insane dialogue would be funny enough, but when the comedians start riffing like a live version of Mystery Science Theater, the crowd gets raucous. Certain scenes (like the main character's interesting relationship with food and a swimming pool scene for the ages) become so over-the-top hilarious, that I would become convulsed in an embarrassing fit of snorting, hiccuping laughter…..but, oh what therapy for the soul that laughter is. We all heartily recommend the Slam!
Another boffo night in mighty KC.