Friday, March 13, 2009

St. Urho's Fire - Better than Bison Power?

Yes, folks, Raven & Wombat Tea Party has another product! It's in honor of the Most Revered St. Urho

You can see and buy it here!

Books, Booze & Broads...

This past Wednesday I played hooky from work to see the fabulous 'Book of Secrets' exhibit at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library with pals Elena & Kate

Did I say fabulous? How about Amazing! Beautiful! Exquisite! I've always had a fascination with alchemy: the hard science and the integrated philosophy and religious aspects are both very simplistic yet also incredibly complex. The books were just a joy- many with the scholars' annotations including some amusing small, pointing hands in margins and some wonderful illustrations. One particular illustration has now become a new party game for the next meeting of the minds at the Aloha Alcohula*: 'Raising the Green Dragon with Bellows while Wearing a Loincloth."  A conversation starter for sure!

To see the range of alchemical writings over a timeline was also very interesting- it has had a long shelf life! There were also several foreign-language versions of Rowling's "Harry Potter & the Sorceror's Stone." (I have a confession to make: I was very excited to see the movie when it first appeared, but it sort of soured my taste for All Things Potter- it wasn't nearly as, well, alchemical as I had hoped - Nicholas Flamel, Sorceror's Stone....I felt cheated.)

Just past this portion of the exhibit, there was another treasure- a Gutenberg Bible. I had, to my knowledge, never laid eyes on one before, and it was really exquisite. At first glance, I was still a little overloaded with the Book of Secrets exhibit, so I had to clear my head to really take in the significance of this item. Just glorious! The contrast between the hard edges of the black-letter type and the organic hand-painted illustrations was really striking.

Also present (near the gong I was so tempted to hit...) were the two Yale-owned copies of John James Audubon's "Birds of America" - in the handy-dandy double elephant folio size.  This case was not well-lit, though, which was bit disappointing, but the illustrations were beautiful!

After filling our eyes &  brains, it was time to fill our bodies with lunch- we stopped into the Thalitoo vegetarian Indian restaurant across from the Yale bookstore.  The food was really wonderful, especially on such a damp, grey day: we had chapatis, hot masala fries, malai kofta, 
paneer sabji jalfraize, and two other dishes I cannot recall. The food was tasty and the service was fast, plus the soundtrack of Bollywood music was fun. (I see that I haven't mentioned booze yet: we had beer.)

We then popped into the bookstore, I scarfed up a sale copy of Risko caricatures, which was a pleasant surprise. I find it incredibly amusing that you have to waltz past the Clinique counter to get to the sales books...

Back to Elena's for chat, vodka, and more food. The vodka was another zubrowka, but I don't remember the brand - we agreed that it was sweeter out of the bottle than the Bison Grass brand, but I think only Elena liked this other brand better. I felt it lacked the subtle changes in flavor as it warms that Bison Grass has. However, it did compliment the cheeses just fine.

Then, it was magically off to eat some more after Rod came home - not that I was hungry by any stretch of the imagination at this point, but pleasantly buzzed enough to not care so much...we ended up at the Mediterranean fusion restaurant, Mavi, in West Hartford. It was really nice inside, and we had appetizers that were really good - especially the lobster-stuffed avocado. There were lamb kebobs that were very good, vegetable pancakes that were disappointingly cold, but delicious, and seafood beignets that were ok - a bit doughy for my taste. Rod had duck that he and Kate pronounced to be very delicious.

Then it was off to....get more coffee. Good thing, or I may have succumbed then & there to the Steier Guest Food & Alcohol Coma. Not that it's a bad thing, mind you!  Then, back to Elena's, where she magically produced cheesecake. WTF? Where did that come from? So, yes I ate a couple bits, had some more zubrowka....woof.  The invitation to sleep over was getting to be very, very tempting, but after some more chat, I hauled myself up and out.

How much better could it be? Food for the head, food for the eyes, food for the heart, food for the body & liver. Thanks for a great day, Kate & Elena! 

*Best DAMN tiki bar in CT

Monday, March 02, 2009

Snow Day and Suet-eatin' Crows

I'm starting to really, really look forward to snowstorms this year- I love the snow anyway, and I've been blessed with time off from work because of the snow.

But I was a bit shocked when I went out to shovel this morning as I didn't really think we were going to get that much snow! So, I (figuratively) rolled up my sleeves and started in. About 15 minutes into this chore, a large crow sat in the tree above me and asked for some food. We've only fed this family twice this year, so I was kind of surprised - and I did notice a couple of others having a go a the suet cages hanging on the fence but they're too big to sit on them and eat.
So, I ran in and sacrificed one of Bernie's Krispy Kremes and a couple of pieces of sad dry bread to the crows. I was rewarded by some fantastic vocalizations: crk-crk-crk-crk-crk! And the "Food!food!food!HeyguysFOOD!" caws. But this crow wanted some backup before even attempting to fly down and grab some nosh. After about 20-30 minutes of yelling for backup/informing the entire neighborhood there was food, a few seagulls decided to check this out...did I say a few? How about at least 12-15 very large, aggressive scary seagulls, circling the yard, a few crows showing up ready to defend 'their' food....I was getting a little freaked and thought to myself 'Well, that's great- just trying to feed some birds, now I created some sort of aviary armageddon...'
So, I let the gulls take what was there and ran back inside for a few more pieces of bread and a new block of suet, which I hid from the gulls, but a couple of the crows saw me stash these tidbits. They hung out, telling me to hurry the hell up with the shoveling because they were hungry and I told them they were the stupidest corvids I'd ever seen - big, black dumb, chickens.
Finally I finished and laid the bread out on the ground along with the block of suet- I think they all said either 'Qwrawk, thanks!' or 'We'll let you live this time, human' and I told them to be quiet and just eat, fer cryin' out any case, about 8-10 crows were making very happy, contented noises and settled down to eat. And I still have my eyes.

Restaurant Review: Sakura Garden Japanese Steak House

This past weekend, Bernie and I found ourselves at the Sakura Garden Japanese Steak House at Evergreen Walk in Manchester/South Windsor, faint with hunger.
We approached our prey, wrenched the tall doors open, the decor was really nice. Like fancy nightclub nice, but as it was lunchtime, I felt appropriate in jeans. Nice modern dark wood, a curved wall of white plaster with inset blue glass pieces, very clean lines, interesting lighting fixtures.
A pleasant hostess who seated us near a window 'close' to the bar - about ten feet. Perfect! Refreshingly, the tables, sushi bar and regular bar were spaced out nicely, so I imagine it would fairly decent in there even on a busy night, and the place is very large. There was a sake menu, with quite a few choices, but I settled for a Newcastle and Bernie had a Mai-Tai. A quite mediocre Mai-Tai. (I fail to understand WHY he orders Mai-Tais at bars that always disappoint when he makes the best ones....)
We were presented with a fairly extensive lunch menu that so many mouth-watering choices. I settled on the shrimp tempura Sakura lunch box & my pootie-pie had the Ivory Tower roll, spicy tuna and Philadelphia maki rolls. We had miso soup, which was actually delicious, and then our food quickly appeared - I could not believe how large the lunchbox was! It had some lovely sticky rice, the shrimp tempura with some veggie tempura thrown in, shrimp shumai and 4 pieces of California roll. I'm not sure why I order things tempura'd (or fried) as I don't really like fried foods....but it was really tasty. The shumai were really exquisite- firm and flavorful as were the pieces of California roll. I was amazed how good the basic California roll was! Bernie's maki rolls were really nice, and the Ivory Tower roll was exquisite- very light and you could taste all the components - the ginger, the sesame, the tuna (very fresh) - and it was all plated very beautifully, too.
We left sated and happy and vowing to return several more times in the future to try some other dishes. There are 3 of these restaurants in CT, so I'm not sure if this is a chain, and if it is, I'm amazed at the high quality of the food. The staff were also very pleasant and very competent. Give this place a shot!