Thursday, February 28, 2013

Overly Sharey Yelp Reviews: Clark's Oyster Bar

"You and I have memories, longer than the road that stretches far ahead."

If you know me at all, then you know I'm a true audiophile and cannot help but be influenced by ambient music whenever I hear it. As we were seated at Clark's, "Two of Us" played overhead as Errol M. and I dined on some of the best oysters I have had in my life, talking about whatever things Yelpy friends talk about, and generally enjoying this thing called life.

"Two of us wearing raincoats…lifting latches…on our way back home."

Incidentally, Errol and I were both wearing traditional camel colored trench coats, a la Breakfast at Tiffany's and I learned another Errolism: "Your either a person who owns a raincoat or not." His was probably Burberry and mine is Banana Republic.

It was a dreary day in Austin, but the brightly colored interior of Clark's melted some of that away, as did the strong, good coffee—coffee and oysters, who knew?

And, we utilized the under counter purse-hooks for more than just purses that day.

"You and me Sunday driving, not arriving."

We spent a while here, soaking up the ambience and thoroughly enjoyed watching the staff meticulously preparing the oysters and fishes for the day. Though next time, I think we'll sit at the center bar that seemed to have better stools. The stools where we were sitting didn't have the braces at the bottom so the whole time I was balancing on my sits bones, which is not the most comfortable way to sit.

"You and me chasing paper, getting nowehere."

Seriously, I have noticed an unnerving uptick in the amount of uncomfortable seating in Austin area restaurants. Please whoever is choosing the furniture, sit there yourself for two hours, maybe you'll second guess stools without braces at the bottom or flat wooden benches with no cushions…

And now I am sitting here listening to the rest of The Beatles catalog and reminiscing when I should be working and concentrating. Oh, can't we just sit around and listen to records all day and hang out?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Overly Sharey Yelp Reviews: Shangri-la

July 7, 2011
Two dollar Tuesdays = $2.50 for gin and juice.  That's okay.  The lovely bartendress makes 'em strong.  They let you start a tab and if you close it under $10, they just add a dollar.  Fair enough.  Everything else seemed to actually be $2.

Good AC inside, very nice back yard out back.  Nothing as exciting last night as the time my co-workers kid went up on the roof, but it was fun none the less.  

I guess there is an Eastside Kings outpost here now?  IDK.  I didn't eat any but we speculated quite a while.  They gave us paper umbrellas for our Tecates, and that made the evening so much more festive.  Stayed way too late.  Had a little too much fun for a Tuesday.  Nice fuzzies for Shangri-la. Mwah!

June 6, 2012
Had to drag my friends here after we'd been on a little bar-hopping excursion.  It's the siren's song of $2 Tuesday.  It calls to me, and also the possibility of seeing one of my favorite bartenders in Austin, the one who always remembers me, no matter how long it has been since I've been there.  Alas, Joe was not there last night.  Finally figured out why the Snoop Dog is $2.50 on Tuesdays instead of $2; Echo informed me the juice is an extra $.50.  The paper umbrellas are free and as I was trying to put mine in my hair it flew away :(  My friend was able to get hers to stick in her hair and then kept saying, "I kept forgetting I got this pina colada in my hair."  It was pretty funny, but I guess you had to be there.

Minus one star for vetoing The Strokes on the jukebox last night (and it might actually have been "Last Night") in favor of more David Bowie.  When I yelled, "Play more David Bowie!" I was obviously joking since they had played like three in a row, then they played another three or four.  

Now I love David Bowie and I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be married to him, but I still appreciate a little variety from the jukebox.  For instance, when "Rich Girl" came on and Sam was saying something about how he didn't like that song but he said for us to go ahead and continue dancing to it, and I had to charm him with my story of how when I was a kid and I loved that they said "bitch" on the radio, I thought that was so cool.  And I still do.  I don't know if Sam was saying he doesn't like Hall & Oates at all, and I might be with him on most of their stuff (I think "Maneater" is the song I hate the most in the world, although "Somebody I Used To Know" is edging up there).  You'll have to wait until I go to bar that happens to be playing "Maneater" to get the full scoop on why I hate that song.

Also, they have purse hooks.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Platypus and the Pastafarian

Is it wrong to have impure thoughts about your hairdresser?  And if it is, from whom should I seek forgiveness?  I think Flying Spaghetti Monster would be cool with it so, despite my Catholic upbringing, I’m going Pastifarian on this one. 
Platypus Salon is a one-man operation in a very nicely appointed house conversion on the east side (basically 5th and Pedernales).  Kelly is laid back and cool, except for that one time he told me to “look straight” in a very teachery voice, because this is serious business, this haircutting stuff, so I understand and it is kind of hot to be told what to do once in while.  Also I must point out that Kelly is the man who gave me a super awesome hair cut for a job interview in 2008, taking my past the shoulders, shaggy mess to an ultra sleek and sexy swing bob.  And I totally got the job.  But I stopped going to Kelly soon after…
Anyway, it is appointment only and essentially, it is just you and Kelly for the whole hour.  First, you discuss what you want your cut to be.  Then you go to the shampoo room.  Yes, there is a whole room dedicating to shampooing but really it should be called the scalp massage room.  Yes, yes, a scalp massage with some essential oil from his array of oils on the shelf (no patchouli, yay!).  Then you get in the “shampoo chair” and he turns it on.  Yeah, it’s a massaging chair and a really nice one, not like the ones at the nail salon that are kinda crazy and make your chest do weird things (although, it might be nice if it did, you know…).  Anyway, it’s like 15 minutes of really sensual scalp and chair body massaging, in which I spent lots of time thinking about how I had to go to work after this and thinking next time I should book an evening appointment.  But I was really trying to get out of my head and enjoy it, and did not say a single word during the massage portion.   Once he started shampooing, we got to the small talk which was pleasant.  He’s a cool guy for sure. 
Next is the actual hair cutting part.  And this I like as well, because he takes his time, and measures and re-measures the various strands and parts of your hair to make it cohesive and you know in the end, he cut it all and didn’t miss a section (I have definitely felt like this after getting home from a too-fast haircut).  More small talk, more chatting about bangs, and before I know it, he’s taking the cape off, and in my head I hear Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn.” 
I pay and Kelly says to call him anytime about the bangs (anytime?).  Of course, my hair looks freakin’ fantastic and he did exactly what we’d agreed to.  I am happy and sad at the same time and remember why I stopped going to him in the first place: I was married and though Kelly is 100% professional, my mind is in the gutter 90% of the time so I couldn’t take all the sensual scalp massaging and then go home to an affection-free marriage.  Anyway, this review is definitely going in the collection of overly-sharey Yelp reviews that comprise a memoir of Melissa A.  Here is the Yelp version, slightly less sharey...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Unexpected benefits and side effects of Experiment: Ride Bike to Work Every Day for a Week

The expected benefits of riding to work versus driving are pretty obvious: fun, fitness, saving money on gas.  And these are great.  The feeling of joy when riding is not to be discounted, and getting 80 minutes of incidental exercise a day is nothing to sneeze at, well, unless you live in Austin, the allergy capital of the world. [insert pity chuckle here]

The most surprising thing I have noticed is how easy driving feels after cycling.  Usually driving feels like such a chore, but after actually using your body to get you from point A to point B, having a machine do the work for you feels pretty luxurious. 

The next most unexpected benefit was increased interactions with people around me.  Everyday I was out I met someone, sometimes two people.  And this was usually on the way home, when I inevitably ride a lot slower.  Although very cursory interactions, they are important in this over-connected, under-connecting modern world we live in.

The last unexpected side effects was not hating red lights as much.  Though they do suck when you're going real fast and have to stop or want to make them but can't, on a bike, the red light can be your friend.  A nice moment to sip some water and rest, look around.  And that's the real overall benefit to cycling more: seeing more, feeling more, being more. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

The bike(s) and set-up of Experiment: Ride Bike to Work Every Day for a Week

This is the bike I am riding for this experiment.  Very visible at night, don't ya think?  

The bike is a Fuji Sunfire, purchased at Performance Cycles on Anderson Lane in Austin, TX, Summer 2009 I think.  I was surprised to find this glowing review on this bike, saying it is one of the best hybrids you can get.  I have enjoyed it pretty well, though it definitely needs a tune-up.  I like that the front shocks can be locked out and it is definitely sturdy enough for level 1 mountain biking, the easy trails around Austin, and the work commute.  I think I am still adjusting to the extra weight and different geometry after riding this

exclusively for a few years.  All the websites say it was the 2008 Schwinn Madison but I'm pretty sure I bought it in early 2007 when I worked at Kozy Cycles in Chicago.  In any case, the Madison is super sweet, and light, and really fast.  When I first got this bike I would never leave it locked up anywhere.  Now I can lock it next to a Bianchi that someone tied up with a cable lock and be worry-free. 

It has the flip-flop hub in the back so you can ride it fixie, but I never have since I like how my face looks in its present configuration.  It's not that I'm clumsy, it's just that if there is an accident waiting to happen, it is waiting to happen to me.  So I try to keep my odds low, which is always why I wear a helmet while I ride (more on that in the gear post).  I also have a third bike, because, obviously, I have a problem.  We may talk about that one in a post deidcated to getting around for SXSW.

The set-up I have on the Fuji is a rack and a pannier set I got off Amazon for less than $50.  The rack is a Delta Cycle Megarack Ultra.  Not sure where the ultra comes in.  The horizontal arms were not long enough to fit my bike without having the panniers too close to my feet, so I had to get another two inches of length using zip-ties.  Ultra classy, huh?  I'm sure if I wanted, I could get some other bracket / extender type thing to replace the zip-ties and I may once they start degrading.

I like the panniers much better, they are Avenir Metro Panniers.  They have two roomy pockets on each side and straps in the middle so you can still tie something to the center rack if you want.  The only thing I don't like is the super tight bungee with the killer hook at the end.  I have snapped my fingers in that at least twice and it really hurts.

killer bungee hook

It would be easy enough to modify this so that it is not a sharp hook on the end of a bungee cord, and I may replace it with Velcro or something the next time I snap my finger on it.

I got these panniers because they were priced well and someone said they could get two gallons of milk in one pocket, which seemed good if I was going to the store for a family of four.  I am more likely to be packing what this guy has:

How is Coors like sex on the beach?
 A can of tamales to the first poster with the punchline to that joke.  Happy Riding!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wednesday, Miles 30-37.5 of Experiment: Ride Bike to Work Every Day for a Week

Woke up this morning and so didn't want to ride.  But this is a no BS experiment.  So I sucked it up.  Remembered proximity card today and there were towels in the locker room.  Halleluiah!  But not everything was peaches and cream.  Which leads us to an issue I encounter regularly.  I tend to get into experiences or situations that other people don't.  Sometimes these are good, sometimes they are bad.  For instance, just last night I was roller skating and fell, right on my skate.  Huge painful bruise on my right glute.  Hurt so bad when I did it, I didn't want anyone to talk to me for a couple minutes.  Ouch!  So I have this reputation in my family of being clumsy, but that's really not the case: the more you do things, the more good and bad things will happen to you, in life, in cycling, and in roller skating.

On the way home, I was waiting at the light at San Antonio and Cesar Chavez.  A woman approached me and asked me where "Gwad-a-loop" street was.  I pointing the direction and said it was the third light, back the way she and her friends came.  She had an exasperated look on her face and asked me again where it was and I said, "It's the third street, that way."  Right then my light turned and I went through the intersection.  And then it hit me.  They probably were looking for "Gwadaloop" or something to that effect, not "Guadalupe" although phonetically, in English, Gua-da-lu-pe would actually be pronouced Gua-da-loop.  Weird.

Anyway, I cruised over to an Air BnB event, my friend Jade is the community manager, and I am an Air BnB host (come stay with me!).  That was fun but I was really tired and ready to go home.  I decided to take the bus home.  While waiting at the stop I noticed this at the stop:

Pretty cool.  I scanned the QR code and verified the next bus was due in 5 minutes.  Of course, this being Austin the bus was 10 minutes late.  And already had two bikes on it.  Dang!  The next bus wouldn't come for another 30 minutes, then it would take another 15 to get to my house.  Or I could suck it up and just ride.  Which is what I did and was not happy about it at all, except that I was passing people sitting at bus stops waiting and at least I would be home soon.

Single Girl Succotash

If you've read my blog at all, you have probably surmised that I hate planning and pre-packing.  Be it what I'm going to wear to work or what I'm going to eat that day or what I should pack in my bike panniers beside three different shades of lipstick (like maybe my proximity card). 

The adage "we don't plan to fail but we may fail to plan" pretty much sums it up for me.  I love packing for trips though and moving days are my favorite days of the year.  I’m an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in a tamale.   

Anyway, Single Girl Succotash helps combat one of the thorniest disadvantages of being human: having to eat 3 to 6 times a day.  Seriously, can I just be solar-powered already?  In lieu of altering my body's chemistry to allow me to photosynthesize, I've come up with a few life hacks to combat this caloric intake requirement. 

What is Single Girl's Succotash, you ask?  It is just a variation on the traditional succotash that I make.  It is probably more proper to call it a “vegetable medley” but “Single Girl Vegetable Medley” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.  It is also similar to ratatouille and calabacitas. 

You don’t have to be single to enjoy this or even a girl.  If I ever get married, I may call it Melissa’s Married [Vegetable] Medley.  Single Guy’s Succotash works too.  Comment on this post and tell me what you’re calling it.  The winner, determined solely by me, will win a can of tamales.  Bet you didn’t think they came in cans, but they do.

The main benefits of SGS is that it is an efficient way to use up vegetables, get a blend of  vegetables, goes with anything (as I will demonstrate) and, can be cooked in 4 minutes in a microwave, even the crappy one they probably have at your office.  Below is a list of possible vegetables and spices/sauces to use in SGS. 

Traditional succotash has lima beans and corn in it.  Feel free to put those in your SGS, I don’t because it is not the Great Depression anymore.  You can also try this with kale or Brussels sprouts, or White Onions, or other types of squash. I usually like to keep it simple and work with vegetables that don’t overpower the rest of the meal.

Possible vegetables and spices/sauces to use in SGS
Green Veg
Green Beans
Green Bell Pepper

Orange Bell Pepper

Yellow/ White
Yellow Squash
Yellow Onion
Purple Onion
Red Bell Pepper

Vodka Cream
Soy Sauce
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Lemon Pepper
Greek Seasoning
Tony Chachere's

I recommend a minimum of three colors and four vegetables.  The combo I tend to make most is zucchini, squash, carrots, and [insert other green vegetable].

So, how do we make this stuff? I recommend starting with a food processor. You’re making your veggie side for the week so it’s worth getting out the processor and the reason this can be made in the microwave is because we’re slicing everything real thin. It you do it by hand, it may take longer to cook and will definitely take you longer to cut up.

1. Wash everything.
2. Slice the zucchini and squash lengthwise then in half with a knife. I have two slicing blades on my processor, the thin side and the thick side. Use the thicker slicer for the veggies that will cook faster.  Use the thick side to slice these.
3. Carrots, cut of tops and bottoms with a knife. Use the thin food processor slicing blade. Slice about and equal proportion to the amount of other ingredients.
4. Green beans, cut off tops and bottoms, use and equal proportion to other ingredients, slice on the thinner blade. I wish these would come out more julienned with my machine but they tend to come out more like green bean coins, which is fine, just not as pretty.

Alright, so we’re got our raw materials ready, here comes the fun part.

Before going to business school, I wanted to be a nutritionist. My favorite author in this field is Dr. Andrew Weil, with whom I agree about 90% of the time. His book Eating Well For Optimum health is my main reference on this subject and he basically encourages us to eat in healthy proportions: carbohydrates 50 to 60 percent, fats 30 percent and proteins 10 to 20 percent.  The Zone advises you to divide your plate into thirds: 2/3 complex carbohydrates and 1/3 lean protein (chicken, turkey, or fish) and then “add a dash of heart healthy monounsaturated fat like olive oil.”

So you can totally Zone out with this if you want, I don’t do that but I do go for thirds. For lunch, I use two cups of SGS as my side. I put this into portable BPA plastic ware or those glass to-go containers. Then I have 1 cup of "other," ideally something more protein heavy, but often for me it is simple carb heavy (rice, pasta, etc). It’s my world and I’m already eating 2 cups of veggies at lunch so whatever.

Okay so here are some meal ideas:

Leftover Chinese and SGS
Say you have some leftover moo-shu pork, or sweet and sour chicken, or combination fried rice. Whatever it is, take a cup of this and 2 cups of your SGS in separate containers.

To the SGS, add a dash of Tamari* or regular soy or whatever variation you like, you could even use Hoisin sauce if you’re feeling real fancy. Throw in some Rooster Sauce if you like it spicy. That’s it. You could church it up and add other Asian-style spices but we’re trying to keep this simple and you’re going to mix the veggies with your leftovers, so they will get some of that seasoning anyway.

*Tamari side note: This is the brand I like: San-J Organic Reduced Sodium. I can usually find it at the store, or I guess I could order it off Amazon. If you’re never tried tamari, you should give it a try, it definitely has a less salty, harsh taste than regular soy sauce and is generally gluten-free (regular soy contains wheat).

When you are ready to eat, open your SGS container a crack, and microwave on high for 3.5 - 4 minutes. Take out, close the lid, give it a shake, viola! Microwave the leftovers about two minutes and there you have a perfectly acceptable lunch: easy, way cheaper than eating out, and pretty darn healthy, even with the inclusion of the Chinese leftovers.

Pasta and SGS
I am a pasta junkie. Actually I am a Pastafarian. Whatever you want to call me, just don’t call me late for pasta. Alright, this dish is super easy.

Two cups of SGS, top with about half a cup of chunky marinara. That’s it. Church it up if you like, but totally not necessary. Microwave 3 .5 to 4 minutes. Take out, close the lid, give it a shake, viola!

One cup of some kind of pasta. For this, I definitely like to use the fancy ravioli that you can buy at the store. Nuovo is my favorite, I can get it at the natural food store near my house. In a few years, you’ll be able to download right off Amazon. If you’re using just plain pasta, you’ll probably want to add 4 oz of protein. I’ve done this with angel hair and grilled chicken before. Totes delish.

For the pasta, I usually cook up a batch the night before, give it a little butter or olive oil, lots of parmesan, and a little fresh ground pepper. Do what you like, it’s your world. Microwave pasta about two minutes, eat with SGS, feel happy and contended by the pasta-y / veggie goodness.

Tacos and SGS
You guessed it. Have a couple leftover tacos in the fridge, cause, like, who doesn’t? Bring them along to work and have them with your SGS. But seriously, you may have some leftover protein something that you could add some Mexican type spices to and put in a tortilla. Often I have leftover rotisserie chicken that is perfect for this, or leftover pulled pork is really good too. Or just season the leftover meat and have it with the SGS, sans tortilla.

Tamales and SGS

Sandwiches and SGS
Make your favorite sandwich. Cut it diagonal. For this one, you can probably not microwave the sandwich, just the veggies in whatever complimentary seasoning or sauce goes with your sandwich. This combo would work well if you pre-cooked the veggies and had them cold out of the fidge, so it is the same temperature as the sandwich.

Hunk o Protein and SGS
By now you know the drill.

For this one though, you’ll probably want to go 4 - 6oz protein and up your veggies or other side by about half a cup.

Let’s say you like poached white fish with lemon and black pepper, make that the night before (or cook that in the microwave too. I haven’t tried but here is a recipe for it). Season your SGS with black pepper and lemon, microwave with lid cracked 3.5 – 4 minutes, close, shake, viola!

Let’s say your vegetarian or someone who enjoys tofu, make up some tofu the night before. Season the SGS with a little peanut sauce, or tamari, or huosin; crack, cook, close, shake.

Chicken, a little piece of sirloin or other type of steak, pork loin, other types of fish, or other vegetarian or vegan sources of protein would work too. Find your protein and its seasoning and season the SGS accordingly.

That's all I got for now.

Happy hacking! And if anyone figures out the photosynthesis thing, let me know.