Saturday, January 24, 2009

Week in Review

Several of you have expressed concern over my lack of posts this week. To my faithful readership of 3, I thank you for noticing the lapse of questionable recipes, lists, and snarky stories. Instead of writing a small story about each day this week, and what I was eating, I decided to write a synopsis of the whole week.

First off, work bites my butt. I can't tell if it's God or the VP who heard my bored sighs during my first few months here, but someone decided to do something about it. I really wish they hadn't. I was just starting to embrace the boredom, fill my time with other rewarding work and social activities. Instead of shopping for new ingredients, making a shitstorm out of my kitchen, and dreaming up new recipes, I was babysitting egos, cleaning up other people's shitstorms, and dreaming up new, creative ways of extracting myself from long and painful meetings. I resent this work and this responsibility, now. But wait a second, who is this person? This person is a person who questions whether Corporate America (or Norway or any other country) is her bag of beans.

As part of the job, I once again was on a plane and this time to Stavanger - the Houston of Norway. There's actually not too much to say about my trip to Stavanger. The ride into the city made me seriously vomitty; the air around Stavanger is notoriously windy and rainy. The nausea lasted throughout dinner, throughout my presentation, and even into the next morning. The only actual reason I share this story of bumpy plane rides, Houston II, and nausea is because this trip took 10 hours of my day and that ate into the time I spend cooking at home. See the comment about resentment in the previous paragraph.

So what did I eat during this week? I can barely remember. I had whole wheat bread with a slice of brown cheese (I will dedicate a post to this ubiquitous brown cheese soon - it merits its own post). Once I had leftover, failed aloo gobi with curd rice but usually, dinner was eaten out - most of it pretty unremarkable. But I will make remarks anyway as it is a sad day when I no longer have my opinions.

Bølgen og Moi, Briskeby - I met my friend, The Italian Rabblerowser, for drinks and dinner after a long day of idiocy and an after-work course on a new software tool. I needed the drink. We decided to meet in our neighborhood and have pizza at her favorite pizza joint. She's Italian, I trusted her. As luck (or God or that wily VP) would have it , the restaurant was packed and had no space for us. Instead, we made our way up to Briskeby to a restaurant we've both been to before. The Italian Rabblerowser has been for burgers in their casual cafe and I'd been once before for their prix fixe menu in the quieter, modern-design dining room. We both enjoyed our past meals so we were hopeful for our night of much needed good food, good wine, and good conversation. Bølgen og Moi fulfilled 2 out of 3 of our goals. The dining room was quiet enough to hear ourselves speak but not so quiet that we felt hushed. The waitstaff, like the waitstaff all over Norway, was pleasant but gave us our space. It was a good sign that I saw a man rolling out pizza dough to order so we both decided on made-to-order pizzas with our glasses of Ripasso. After placing our order, we were brought an amuse bouche and table bread. The amuse bouch was a cream of celeryroot soup. It was rich and playful in its presentation. The little bit of creamy soup was served in a miniature cappuccino, frothed on top, and with a sprinkle of nutmeg to inspire a casual coffee amongst girlfriends. The table bread was a chewy, crusty bread with a lovely, garlicky spread to spread on top. Dinner started off well enough. Then after an extraordinarily long time, our pizzas came and the disappointment in them was immediately evident on our faces. The Italian Rabblerowser ordered a pizza topped with ham, artichoke and sun-dried tomato. From my vantage point at the table, I could not immediately recognize the artichoke and the ham from the sauce and cheese. I may have also been distracted by The Italian Rabblerowser unhappily tapping her knife at against the overly crispy, charred crust. I ordered their take on the classic margherita pizza. A margherita pizza is simple: tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil. My pizza came with a dressed salad on top. The not-so-fresh-mozzarella cheese was waxy and melted all over the top of the pizza. The dough was overdone and a little too crispy for my personal preference. The dressed salad of lettuce and corn was just an anomaly. I didn't understand it - were they trying to make a statement by switching out the basil with a lettuce leaf? And what was with the corn? I got about 2/3 of the way through the pizza before putting down my knife and fork. The hand holding the fork was red and sore from grasping my fork so tightly as I sawed into my pizza. I was done. My review in short: Definitely go to Bølgen og Moi, have their prix fix menu, have their burgers but save your money and avoid the pizza. Their wine list is pretty nice, too.

Real, homemade Indian Dinner - Remember how I said that most of what I ate this week was unremarkable? This dinner was the exception. A friend, another recent transplant, invited me and a few others over for a girl's dinner at her house. After arriving late (thanks to that damned job again), I was immediately sucked into the makings of a good dinner amongst new girlfriends. A half empty bottle of wine was on the table and the girls were already hooting with laughter. I stripped out of my winter armor as soon as I could and jumped right in. I had seriously considered not going, not wanting to hold up dinner and making my way to a new neighborhood alone but I was so glad I did. It also helped that my friend's doting husband picked me up from the T-Bane station. Soon after I sat down, I was served a plate of homemade chaat. HOMEMADE! Chaat is the umbrella term for the roadside, savory snacks served in India. I've never been to India but I've been to Artesia in Southern California and I'm told that's a close second. And I've had good chaat. It's hard to find chaat in Oslo, like it is to find any truly authentic dish. We have some decent Indian food here, but it's the stock curries and naan. No chaat. Not until tonight. The hostess made each and every component of this type of composed salad. She layered diced, boiled potatoes, boiled chickpeas, cilantro (coriander), diced onions, dahi vada (fried balls of lentil flou, soaked in yogurt), crispy homemade chips, and a tamarind chutney. It was heaven. The flavors of the chickpeas, the yogurt, the cumin, onion, cilantro and sweet tamarind were distinct yet played in harmony. Texture, which is a big thing for me, was varied. There was the starchiness from the potatoes and chickpeas, crispiness from the chips, smoothness from the yogurt and a hearty meatiness from the vada. One of the best plates of dahi chaat that I've had in a long time. Dinner was no less extraordinary. The hostess made homemade naan, a thick bread usually cooked in a tandoor. We used the naan to sop up the curry from a red bean stew. It was just barely spicy but fantastically fragrant and flavorful. In addition to the curry, we had mutter baingan, a saute of eggplant and peas. We also had bindi masala, a dry dish made of okra (bindi), onions, and ginger. In addition to the naan, the hostess made a cumin fragranted rice. The table was silent for the first time all evening. We stopped sharing dating nightmares, gossip, and all conversations about Obama - we were focused on the food. For dessert, we had a homemade gulrotkake (carrot cake) and cream cheese frosting. I was so full I could have rolled myself down the hill to the car. This dinner in all its hard work, vibrant flavors, colorful conversation was the highlight of my week.

So, a summary of my week in review: work bites my butt, I didn't have enough time to cook and write about my cooking, but thanks to my girlfriends it still ended on a happy note.

Stay tuned...Chinese New Year is coming up and I intend to celebrate it here in Oslo by cooking what my mom makes at home.

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