Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thurcheese: Defeat at the Hands of Munster

In the life of every cheese lover there comes a Moment.* That magical point in time when you are faced with the cheese that will test your resolve, that will prove whether you are a true connoisseur or merely a Velveeta-eater with pretensions. In that moment, the truth of your desire to consume and enjoy the cheeses of the world is laid bare.

Friends, I have looked into the Heart of Cheese, and I blinked.

It did not begin well. As soon as I opened the shipping box, before I even took any of the cheeses out of their wrappers, I could already begin to smell it. If I had just received a package of normal food that smelled like that, I would have sent it straight back with an angry note and probably complained about it on Twitter, but cheese isn't like that. Sometimes, cheese smells, I reasoned. This must be one of those times.

So I unwrapped the cheese and took my picture, and the smell grew steadily stronger. It was a horrible, sour, rotten smell, a stink that could wake the dead, and make them say thanks anyway, we'd rather be dead. But still, I held out hope. After all, it could turn out to be like durian, the famously foul-smelling Asian fruit that actually has a surprisingly mild taste**. Maybe the cheese wouldn't taste as bad as it smelled.

And the truth was, it didn't. It tasted worse. I don't know exactly how to describe the flavor, except to say that this was one of those times when it was really very clear to me that what cheese is is, essentially, milk that has been allowed to spoil so completely that it turns into a semi-solid, runny, lump. My taste buds, under the influence of hundreds of generations of selective pressure not to let me eat something that was clearly going to kill me, reacted violently. Even Cameron, who regularly eats kimchi straight out of the jar, almost spit it out.

I have faith in Artisanal, my cheese club source, that they are only sending me the best examples of the kind. I am sure that there are cheese-lovers in the world who would have clapped their hands in glee upon being presented with a Munster of this quality. But, dear readers, I am forced to admit that after that one small taste, I took that cheese straight to the trash and threw it in.

And then I took the bag out to the garbage chute before it stank up the whole apartment.

*At least, I assume there does. Maybe it's just me.
**A little like strawberry, with a touch of gas leak on the finish.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Shoesday: A Potentially Premature Celebration of Spring

Spring! Sunshine! Flowers! Seasonal allergies! Molded plastic shoes! One of these things is in this picture.

I know that the third straight day of sunshine is probably too early to be breaking out the maypole and the sunscreen and the Lady Schick, but I don't care. It has been raining for, by my estimate, forever and I am ready for it to be spring, even if I have to will it into existence all by myself.

Actually, and I don't want to sound ungrateful, but it would have been nice if they could have pushed this up a few days so it could have been sunny on the weekend. Cameron's friend Ken was visiting on Saturday and we spent it visiting wineries around Monterey*. And I would have appreciated some nice weather for that, both because I want California to be on its best behavior for visitors, because I like it when people are jealous of me, and because hauling two increasingly drunk Canadians around in my severely underpowered car would have been easier without the occasional loss of visibility. But anyway, it was still fun and I only succumbed to one, brief bout of road rage right at the end, so I'm calling it a successful day. I still wish it had been nicer, though.

Then I could have worn these shoes.

*Them drinking, me driving.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

Arizona: Canada's Eleventh Province?

When coming up with adjectives to describe spring in Arizona, "Canadian" is not the first thing that springs to mind. It comes in well behind "dry," "hot,""arid," "baseball-y" and "sere." But evidence of the presence and cultural impact of our neighbors to (or, in this case, from) the North, from the guys sitting behind us at the baseball game who actually punctuated their statements with the occasional "eh?" and the appearance, in the aggressively Olde Western downtown Scottsdale, of a place selling shwarma*, to this sign:

Curling in Phoenix! Phoenix, where ice doesn't even bother melting, it just gives you a sad, defeated sigh and vanishes.

Of course, Canada isn't the only place where people in Arizona are from. Being from other places is a major pastime in the greater Phoenix area, which is why dinner on Friday night consisted of some excellent and authentic New York style pizza, from a pizzeria with its primary outlet (and many of its customers) from Brooklyn. And, as the cooking staff there demonstrated, it's easy to forget that America's other NAFTA partner makes by far the largest contribution to the local culture and economy. But I think Canada may still have the edge. After all, plenty of other places have sent their people to The Grand Canyon State, but how many have actually relocated their educational institutions?

*Not technically native to Canada, but so beloved in its cities that people who have moved away speak of it longingly for years since, even if they have moved to a place with excellent and plentiful Mexican food.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Killer Shoes

As any good serial killer knows, the key to carrying off a successful murder is planning. That's why these shoes are such a perfect gift for the up-and-coming psycho in your life:

Wear these regularly for a few weeks before the big day, and no one will bat an eye when your rival for the booth at the craft fair goes missing. Especially if it looks like she was the victim of a tragic horse-kicking.

(Credit to Refinery 29 and Joe for these.)

What Could Be More Restful?

Do you love the comfort and style of hospital gowns, but hate the inconvenience of modern medicine? Well, the Gap has the sleepwear for you:

Update: It's a trend!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shoesday: Spring Wedging

Remember how I said I was going to buy these? Well, I did. I am nothing if not a shoe addict of my word. In fact, I even had a good reason*: This weekend, Mom and I are heading off to Spring Training**, and what is a weekend in Arizona without attractive and comfortable sandals. And they are comfortable, surprisingly so, given their height. (Though less surprisingly because they come from the same line that two separate people described to me as "the holy grail of shoes.") The only downside is that it seems like this level of comfort was reached by installing tiny whoopee cushions in the sole of each shoe, causing my every step to be accompanied by a series of discreet foot-farts. But I don't care, and do you know why? Because this weekend, when the forecast here looks like this:

My farty shoes and I will be looking (if possibly not sounding) fabulous in a place that's a little more like this:

**Viewing, I mean, not joining. Mom's minor league contract wasn't picked up this year.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Naked and the iPhone

So, I got an iPhone. This would be thrilling news if it was 2007; as it is it's really only exciting to me, because now I will always know what direction North is.* Other benefits of joining the second decade of the 21st century: readily available maps, directions and train schedules, immediate answers to virtually any question*** and the ability to send desperate tweets when what I thought was going to be a Caltech alumni get-together after work turns out to be some sort of combination high-tech entrepreneur networking event/pickup scene where I don't know anyone there, and the only Techer I meet graduated in 2008, and a shocking large number of the people are wearing very unflattering jackets.**** So it truly is a wondrous device.

But, as life teaches us all, being special just isn't enough; you have to look special. So with that in mind I have come up with a list of possible cases to buy for my new best friend, and I am hoping you can help me pick one.

First up we have this one, which may be too bulky for my needs, but I like the old-time craftsmanship and enjoy the fact that it comes with a notepad, positioned directly across from where you can see the notepad app on the phone. This may be the iPhone case for people whose grandchildren bought it for them.

Taking things in a more modern direction, we have this, which costs five dollars more despite being made of felt, instead of steer leather, and being basically the kind of pouch you made at summer camp when it was raining. A similar, slightly cooler version is available in denim for less than half the price.

On the other hand, maybe the case shouldn't just be decorative: maybe it should provide a function that no app so far has been able to do. Maybe it should be a bottle opener:

Or perhaps it should wear a nice tweed suit:

If I was an irritating hipster, I could buy it a hoodie:

But I'm not, so let's move on.

We have the status option, complete with logo, that I like more than I should:
Maybe I'll pick one up when it goes on sale.

Or the clip-on cases that protect the phone while being arty. This site has a collection of (logo-free) designs by prominent fashion designers; I think this one is my favorite. But I also like the idea behind these, particularly the rosewood one. And this site, which allows you to upload your own design or buy someone else's if you, like me, have no artistic talent whatsoever, has some really great stuff, like this and this and especially this:

So, I don't know. What do you think?

*iPhone compass + spinning chair=hours** of enjoyment.
**Okay, minutes.
***For example: Are platypuses mammals? (Yes.)
****On the other hand, if you are in the market for meeting single guys with a decent amount of education and at least the potential to have a job, I suppose you could do worse than your local high-tech entrepreneur networking mixer. There isn't a lot of competition, though prepare your self for the quality of the jackets and the potential that someone will try to impress you by the fact that he once worked with a guy who co-founded a company with Mark Zuckerberg's***** best friend.
*****Excuse me, "Zuk".

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thurscheese: Brillat Savarin

Tell Me What You Eat and I'll Tell You That It's Cheese.

I'm not sure if I should be feeling pleased with myself or cheated, but I've had this cheese before. It showed up on a cheese plate at a restaurant a few years ago, and I liked it enough to remember the name and find it in the store. Actually, remembering the name was the easy part, because I was already familiar with it. Brillat Savarin was a French lawyer, essayist and gastronome and, more to the point, he was prominently quoted in the opening of every episode of the original, Japanese, Iron Chef, with which I developed a long-running and only somewhat ironic obsession with in the early 2000s*. I even threw an Iron-Chef-themed party at one point, during which I burned my hand trying to cook satay on the barbecue grill.

Which brings me to the really important news: Don't tell the cable company, but we have somehow gotten a free upgrade to the better cable package, which includes, among other things, The Cooking Channel, which appears to be basically the Food Network before they discovered reality shows and they show the old Iron Chef episodes. So I am reintroducing myself to those simpler times, not to mention the wide wonderful world of premium cable that has suddenly become available.**

Oh, and also we had some cheese. I recommend it.

*It is one of the great failures of our times that we never managed to come up with a decent nickname for that decade.
**BBCAmerica! Which shows Star Trek: The Next Generation reruns in primetime for some reason! But also Top Gear, so all is forgiven.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Shoefinder: I Believe in Summer

I know that right now, for many of us, hot and dry weather seems like a dim and distant possibility, but I believe that the time will come*, and when it comes we are going to be wanting to spend as much time as possible in sandals.

I also believe that Nordy's has a pretty decent selection in their sale section right now, so in the interests of keeping this simple I'm going to be drawing only from there. Maybe next week I'll go on and do another retailer. Maybe I won't.

First up: Some comfortable flats. Because sometimes when it's hot and your feet are sweaty, you just don't have the bandwidth to deal with a heel.

Then again, sometimes you do. After all, there are evenings in the summer, aren't there?

(Disclaimer: Despite the name, nobody in Berkeley has ever worn these shoes.

Of course, in some places it's sweaty at night too. If you can handle the little bit that goes between your toes, these are a nice flat-but-still-dressier option.

I'm not typically a fan of the platform wedge, but these have a kind of appealing breeziness. Is this what people wear in the Hamptons?

Would the chains on these rattle irritatingly and possibly chafe? Very likely. Are they cheap and trendoid and intended for someone half my age? Almost certainly. Do I find them appealing anyway? I think we both know the answer to that.

These are mine. No touching.

*Also, I'm going to Spring Training with Mom in two weeks.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Thurscheese: Grassland Blue

Cow's milk, Minnesota

Can anyone actually tell different blue cheeses apart? We've had three now, because that's how far behind I am in keeping up with my cheese shipments, and I've enjoyed them all, but I couldn't really tell you the difference between them. I mean, sure, they don't all taste like blue cheese dressing, or blue-cheese-flavored Laughing Cow cheese, and I suspect I could tell them apart if I had them side-by-side, but tasted a month apart I honestly don't think there's much I can say to distinguish one from another.

I'm starting to suspect that I may not be a very good cheese-blogger.