Category Archives: Under The Table

A Friendly Rivalry.

I’m starting 2013 with a version of the Paleo Diet. No bread, no beans, no grains, no potatoes. And only one alcoholic beverage a day. My neighbors presented the guidelines, with the official list banning chocolate, potatoes, corn, sugar, legumes, pasta, bread, rice and other processed goodness. They’re referring to it as the “Stop Eating Sh*t Diet”. I decided to play along. Based on before and after weigh-ins, the person who loses the most at the end of the month gets to pick a restaurant for our first post-diet meal. The person who does the worst has to buy drinks that night.

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So far, I’ve gained 1.5 pounds. I hope they pick a restaurant with inexpensive drinks.

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Mayor Inspiration.

I’ve kind of got a thing for Cory Booker. Dude jumps into flaming buildings to save constituents, loves coffee and isn’t that bad to look at. Oh. And he’s willing to try eating for a week on food stamps just to see what it’s like. Swoon.

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Take note. I am in no way trying to compare the situation I’m about to describe with that of the 46.2 million people who live in poverty in the U.S. Poverty and inconvenience are very, very different.

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Ten Things In 2012.

As 2013 rapidly approaches, we pause to take a look at our top food memories and discoveries of the year.

Jill: My itinerant adventures included a spring trip to Nicaragua and Costa Rice, summer visits to New York City and Cleveland (yes, a worthy destination) and a last-minute trip to San Francisco spurred on by World Series baseball. Below are a few things of note as I look back at the year that the world was supposed to end.

1. One-Course Meals.

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In 2012, I realized that while I may not be able to afford three courses of fine dining, I can create my own buffet of great eats by visiting several places for one course each. San Francisco was the perfect backdrop for this style of eating, and I found myself slurping oysters not once, but twice in the ten-day stay. The key, by the way, is to be upfront with servers from the beginning. And to tip a little extra before heading out for the next snack.

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Family Therapy.

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of my father’s death. Part of me can’t believe it’s been five years; the other part of me can’t believe it’s only been five years: It feels like yesterday, and an eternity ago. When my phone rings on Friday afternoons, I still half-expect him to be on the other end of the line, wishing me a happy Friday — as he did every week, pretty much, from when I left for college until he went into the hospital that final time. When I hung pictures in my apartment a few days ago, I heard his voice telling me to measure twice and hammer once; when I found a note on the back of one of those prints, in his inimitable handwriting, with birthday greetings for a year with “a pure silver lining,” I cried as if I’d lost him all over again. The enormous, overwhelming unfairness of it still just floors me.

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I miss him, every day. Not as brutally as I did those first couple of years, and for that I’m grateful, but the ache is constant. I’m usually alone on his yahrzeit — previously, I’ve marked the occasion with too many martinis and/or Manhattans — but this year, my mother and I spent the weekend together at the beach. I hope it’ll be a new tradition.

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Still Shot.

Monteverde, Costa Rica April 2012

The horses knew exactly where they were going. When to stop for the scenery, when to slow down for the grade. A good thing, as our guide, Jose, spoke no English. Los caballos entendían la brecha en el lenguaje.

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Sunday Best.

“Let’s go somewhere cheap for brunch.” Except, as a rule, brunch is never cheap. (I can’t not order the mimosa, you see.)

So we stayed in. Because the weather was perfect for open windows and we’d get a great seat without a wait.

I’m not great at cooking morning food. I once made breakfast for a boyfriend who critiqued the entire endeavor before announcing — after he refused to do the dishes — that he guessed he was just used to his mom’s cooking. I wish I could say that I ended it right there. The breakup was awful, but amazing. I never had to watch 24 again.

This brunch was much better. Eggs cooked with Ohio-made pesto (compliments of my roommate’s mom). This-and-that from the Wayward Seed Farm produce bowl. (Plum and tomato.) Wheat toast smothered with lemon curd made by my friend Jenny. And so much delicious coffee.

To have so much local food within our immediate reach? All without having to put on shoes? Somehow upgrading from a cheap brunch to a free brunch made me feel a little rich. (Bonus: I didn’t have to do the dishes.)

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Truth In Food Blogging.

Two quick, painful truths for you on this Monday evening.

1. Most of what I remember about the meal that I had last Saturday evening at Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland is based on Instagram photos. In my defense, see Exhibit A in the upper left hand corner of the photo below. That wasn’t the first one of those, nor was it the last.

What I do remember, however, is that I bit into a jalapeño while eating my pork tacos. (There’s no way to Instagram—or forget—that.)

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Food for Miles: My Soul is Sold.

Note: This is not a sponsored post. I hate sponsored posts. We don’t roll that way here at IF.

I’m not a coupon cutter, and I’m pretty much awful at taking advantage of bargains. For more than a year, offers from Saveur have been piling up in my “to do” file. One of these days, I’ll subscribe and get that great deal on a subscription. (And win that KitchenAid mixer they keep promising me.) I think that being a marketer, myself, makes me stubbornly immune to the offers promoted by my industry. Even if it’s to my detriment.

There are, however, two loyalty programs that will keep me forever…loyal: Fuelperks (I’ve got to buy toilet paper, and I’ve got to buy gas; I may was well join the masses at the big box stores) and frequent flier miles. I’ve been collecting miles (mainly though Delta/Northwest Airlines) since I could drive. I’ve remained a fan through good and bad (and many a free travel voucher for late and overbooked flights.) And it’s paid off: my flight to the Philippines was entirely paid for by miles.

I’ve recently signed up for a program that rewards me with Delta Skymiles (up to 5 per $1 spent) by doing what I do best: relying on restaurants for the majority of my sustenance. When my friend Jenny told me about Skymiles Dining, I didn’t trust it. (No one should ever trust marketing.) I figured that I’d only get extra miles from eating at Applebees, Wendy’s, California Pizza Kitchen. Turns out that it’s better, though. I can actually get miles by eating at local favorites such as The Top (pictured above), Basi Italia, Surly Girl Saloon and Black Creek Bistro. I’ve done the math. All I’ve got to do is spend $200.00 on my own debit card at these places and I’ll have enough miles for a free trip to Brazil. Not bad.

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On Travel Friends, and Nina.

We met Nina at the dock in Moyogalpa on Ometepe, seconds after I’d agreed that we’d use our cab driver’s friend on the other side of the ferry ride. It took the British woman two sentences for us to agree to abort our previous travel plans and join her on the chicken bus to San Juan Del Sur. All three of us were going to the same place; why pay extra for a cab? And so Nina joined us (or we joined her) and two became three for the next leg of the trip.

I don’t know how to say the following without writing in generalizations: Being far away from home makes it more natural to open up to strangers. We spent two days with Nina, this outrageous, striking, smart and dominant California transplant. It could have been one hundred. I felt like I thoroughly knew her by the time we parted ways.

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Friday Five: Reasons Why I Haven’t Been Writing.

Talk about the elephant in the room. There are no two ways around it: I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately. My top five rationalizations/ excuses/reasons follow, accompanied by—fair warning—a healthy dose of whining and self-pity. Read on at your own risk.

1. I’m broke.

I recently moved, as you may recall, and as a result, my living expenses have nearly doubled. I’m working fewer hours at a lower rate than I have in the past couple of years, even though I’m juggling multiple gigs—and one of my (former) primary clients is declining to pay me without some major teeth-pulling. All of that means that I’m eating out a lot less than I have been—my splurges these days are crappy Chinese takeout and the $5 lunch special (below) from the Jamaican place on my corner—and I’m cooking a lot more pantry-based, clean-out-the-fridge style meals.

How often can one write about bean soup, or dal, or various grain-based salads? And how often does anyone else want to read about these things? There’s a limit, right?

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