Friday, August 29, 2008

Czechoslovakian Beer

Czechvar beer from the Czech republic is, according to my friend Beer Expert Bob, very bitter and a traditional Bavarian style pilsner.
He feels that Czech beer is some of the absolute best beer anywhere.

Southern Brewers Festival
In other beer related news, this past Saturday was Chattanooga's annual celebration of public drunkenness known as the Southern Brewer's Festival. Under the guise of trying micro brews, raising money for charity and listening to music, grown ups spent $15 on an entrance fee and $3 per cup to try beers created right here in the southern states. And Colorado. Which is actually a Southern state if you are from Canada.

Since most beer tastes like the inside of a shoe to me, I sat out this year. Instead, a friend and I watched the mayhem from the balcony of nearby hotel. In years past, when I have gone however, the most memorable beers were the one with odd flavors such as the blueberry beer from Sweetwater Brewery Atlanta. However, I would prefer more blueberry flavor, less beer flavor, which defeats the purpose of even buying beer.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Prison Themed Restaurant, Japan

Ingenious (or nutso, depending on how you look at it) Japanese restaurateurs have developed the prison themed dining experience. Customers are led to their cells in handcuffs, walking past a man in an electric chair, writhing in agony. This will of course whet your appetite because every time I see a man an in electric chair, the first thing that comes to my mind is pork with scallions, in a light sweet and sour sauce or a lovely chicken salad on a bed of fresh garden greens. The breadsticks are free but if you want a good shanking, that's extra. No word on any soap dropping problems in the bathroom. Regardless, I believe I'd just hold off on that.

This blog, Not Quite Nigela (and who is?) has some great photos of a different Japanese prison-themed restaurant.

Today's poll:

Will prison themed restaurants become a big hit (ha ha! no pun intended) in the United States?
1) yes

2) no

3) A restaurant where you are treated like an inmate, seated in a cramped cell like place, and made to pass by people writhing in pain before sitting at your table? Sounds like a Shoney's to me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

As the Blog World Turns

What is new in the world of blogging you ask? Well, I was nominated for another award! Damn I'm good. Not that it's going to my head or anything, but this does make my third. Take THAT Michael Phelps! I win awards and I don't even have to get wet. The Brillante award was bestowed upon me by Team Squid Etsy. Thanks guys!

And thanks to this blog, I will now not gasp in horror should I walk past a computer and see a headless Barbie sticking out of someone's USB port. Some ingenious folks are selling things like Sushi drives, Rubber Duckie drives and the ever popular, Dim Sum drive. Getting creative with your flash drive seems to be a growing trend and USB Flash Drives Tech News has run a three part series on Weird Flash Drives.

Because most things are funnier when they are flat. This is the motto of the Nothing Like It store on Etsy. I believe I'd have to agree with that. This store features a series of clay coasters with names like Ernie the flat elf, Dixie the flat cow, and Flush me the flat goldfish. Their little bulging eyes are so cute!

Ayun Halliday, author of the very funny travel memoir (my personal favorite) No Touch Monkey and the possible creator of the infamous Kitty Litter Cake (if you don't know what this is, retain your innocence and DO NOT Google it! Trust me on this one. You do not want that picture burned into your brain, replacing memories of less disgusting treats). All these accomplishments yet she has not updated her food blog, Dirty Sugar Cookies since December of 2007! That makes knitwithcats look like a blogging fanatic. Everytime I check Dirty Sugar Cookies, all I see is the same Monkfish McNugget picture that has been there for 9 months and counting.

So, Ayun, this knitwithcats award is for you. Congrats!

Is everyone watching the Olympics? My favorite part is the parade of countries in the opening ceremony. It seems like every Olympics I learn about a new "tiny little country between France and Spain" or "lilliputian island nation in the pacific." Then I have to add the country to my already too long to accomplish in one lifetime travel dream list and I spend the rest of the Olympics wondering what life would be like in a country the size of a Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tennessee Valley Winery

Tennessee Valley Winery
Loudon Tennessee

I am far from being a wine connoisseur but I do like a glass of wine every now and then. It seems like there have been several new wineries springing up across Tennessee in recent years. When I asked at the Tennessee Valley Winery how long they have been open, the response was "25 years." Kind of a shocker for me as after a decade of traveling highway 75 towards Knoxville, I had never stopped before. I sampled several wines and decided on an extra sweet desert wine, Strawberry Rhubarb because rhubarb is something I had not seen before in a wine. It's a delicious wine in the opinion of my uneducated wine palate.

(Grapes on the vine)

(The Tennessee Valley Winery off Highway 75 Loudon Tennessee)

(Vineyard view)

(My sentiments exactly)

(Strawberry Rhubarb wine)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sesame Snow Peas

This is a very easy recipe and has gotten lots of praise from friends when I bring it to pot lucks. It is based on a recipe by Barefoot Contessa who, yes, I did refer to as snooty in a previous post, but she does have a good recipe every now and then. Please note that all measurements are approximate and can be adjusted to taste.

2 cups of snow peas, stem ends removed
pinch of kosher salt
teaspoon of sesame oil
2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds (The original recipe calls for less but I love em so I use more)(Also, Barefoot Contessa uses black sesame seeds.)

Blanch your snow peas for maybe 30 seconds. Drain. Add the other ingredients and mix. Taste. Adjust oil and salt if needed, but use the sesame oil sparingly as it has a very strong flavor and aroma. Even though the seeds are already toasted, I sometimes like to freshen up the flavor by toasting them on the stove in a dry pan on low heat for a few minutes.

There is absolutely no reason for this photo being in this post. But, as long as it's here, see if you can guess why my friend named her cat "Shadow."

Ginger Brew

Best soda ever!
Ginger Brew by Maine Root has a great ginger flavor that is not overly intense like many Jamaican ginger sodas can be. With the wonderful ginger aroma and taste, I relished every sip. But, at over $2 per bottle or $25 per 12 pack via mail order, I can't see this becoming the huge trend I would love for it to be until the price comes down a bit. Sure it is organic and the company is environmentally responsible (according to their website), but at that price, it is more expensive than gasoline.

(How do you like my lazy photo, taken while lounging on the couch with my laptop and Ginger Brew. Lazy!)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Adventure Dining at the World's Longest Yard Sale

(a boutique in Mentone Alabama)

The World's Longest Yardsale wrapped up this past Sunday after a four day run. The yardsale, an annual event, reaches from Ohio to Alabama. The trail ends in Mentone Alabama, a cute, rustic little town that attracts a diverse crowd. I once knew a man ordained as a Tibetan Monk living in a mountain retreat in that area. I expressed shock at this as Mentone is quite close to an area known for rigid Christian fundamentalism. But, the Tibetan monk described his life in Mentone and with its residents as being harmoneous and symbiotic.

Adventurous cuisine seemed limited year, with typical offerings limited to corn dogs and barbecue. In previous years, I came across homemade Navajo bread at one stop along the way. The barbecue was very popular this year and one hardware store/restaurant in Georgia reported selling a huge number or ribs and pork sandwiches. The owner told me he had been at the store working from 5 am to 10pm to meet the demand.

(Moonshine Jelly sold in a hardware store, Walker County Georgia)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Force-Feeding in Mauritania

This video is absolutely shocking to me. I had no idea there was such an issue.

In this video, shot by Al Jazeera, girls in Mauritania are force fed to cause obesity as it brings on puberty earlier. There is also a perception that larger wives are treated better by their husbands. There is much denial in the country that the tradition is still being practiced but this video shows othewise.

Initially I was glad to find a country where we curvy women are considered "in." After watching the video, one can't help but be appalled that there is yet another archaic practice forcing women's and girl's bodies to conform to a societal standard. It confuses me that there is one country in Africa where some are force fed and so many others where people do not have enough to eat.

Of course, we Americans know that if Mauritanians want to be overweight, all they need is a McDonalds on every corner. No need to force feed when customers are lured in by the promise of fries and a cute toy in each happy meal. It's also quite interesting that there remain countries that have not been effected (yet) by the western idea of beauty. The end of the video suggests that this might be changing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Persian Cuisine

House of Kebab
Nashville Tennessee

In recent years there seems to have been an increase in Middle Eastern restaurants in Nashville, with several in the Nolensville Rd, Thompson Rd. area, suggesting an increase in the Middle Eastern population in Tennessee. In fact, Nashville was one of the chosen locations in the United States for the Iraqi elections.

House of Kebab, serving Persian cuisine, has been around for about 10 years and is the first Iranian restaurant that I have ever visited. Iranian food seems to be a healthy cuisine with many grilled meats, fresh herbs, and olive oil.

I think that it is unfortunate that many people may avoid trying House of Kebab because of political views or whatever misconceptions they have about Middle Easterners living in the United States. But that is their loss. They are missing the opportunity to try a healthy and flavorful cuisine.

Click here for the full review.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Dineometer Wins Two Highly Coveted Awards

This was given to me by the fine folks at Margie and Edna's Basement. Oh, those rascally old broads! You shouldn't have! (I'm blushing).

I would like to pass this along to five of my fellow bloggers for their own excellence in blogging:

tut-tut at Inside the Shell,

Kiva at Eclectic Granny

Pecos at East of the Pecos River

and Essie at EssieWB's Weblog

Sher at UrResidentChef

The Just Plain Fun to Read award (the blogging equivalent of a Peabody) was given to me by maggie at A Taste of Both Worlds. Thanks!

There are so many blogs that I find just plain fun to read my Google reader overfloweth. So it is difficult to choose but a few to pass this award along to. I am going to select:

Carol at Carol's Thoughtful Spot (Carol, I tried to leave some comments for you today but for some reason, the computer wouldn't let me!)

Arika at The Fabulous Destiny of Arika

Margaret at Pearl

Beat Black at In Shadows

Great work everyone!

The general rule with blog awards is that you mention the award on your blog with a link to the senders blog, and then pass it along to a few others. However, if you choose to celebrate privately, with a couple bottles of wine or some sort of pagan ritual rather than acknowledging the award on your blog, that is fine also. I COMPLETELY understand if you choose to not participate and there is absolutely no pressure to do so.

With all these awards floating around the net, I thought I would develop one of my own. The Knitwithcats award is for those blogs you would enjoy reading, if the blogger ever got around to updating. Excuses like "I had to work 112 hours last week" " I was giving birth" or "I was kidnapped by Russian soldiers and held hostage for 3 years" are not valid and will not be accepted. Please feel free to pass this award along to any of your friends that need a gentle reminder to get on the ball. This is a humorous way of saying "Hey! we miss seeing the latest photos of your kids or pets and want to hear about what hi jinks have been going on in the family." Links back to us would be greatly appreciated.

The knitwithcats award was named for it's first recipient:

Lets hope that the Wikipedia article that I am sure will be written on this very prestigious award in the near future, gets this correct.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Parthenon, Nashville Tennessee

Nashville has its own full scale replica of the Grecian Parthenon, and unlike the original, this
one wasn't shot to pieces by Turkish soldiers in the 17th century. I know what you're saying. Nashville? Home of Reba, Garth, and ......Hee Haw? That Nashville? Yep.

The Parthenon was built for the 1897 fair. It was chosen because Nashville is "The Athens of the South." Why is Nashville the Athens of the south? The official explanation is that it is due to the abundance of institutions of higher learner in the city. However, my opinion is that, as we all know, with institutions of higher learning come toga parties. Hence the name, Athens of the South.

Replica of the Athena Parthenos constructed in the 1990's.

Replicas of excavated statues.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Notes on Google Ads

Apologizing for Inappropriate Google ads:

Google ads are triggered by keywords on my site. This is not an exact science and apparently Google is not using its brightest employees in this particular department. One issue that I have is that if I talk about a certain cuisine from a certain continent on which the Olympics are being held (being careful here not to trigger the ads), Google assumes that my readers would therefore want to purchase a bride from that country and runs an ad showing where one could be found. Surely a company who consistently ranks itself as a perfect 10 on its own rating scale could figure a better filtering system for ads. If one talks about cuisine and ethnic cooking, why show ads that would appeal only to lonely truck drivers looking for a good time?

Another annoying ad is the one by some nut-job that wants to save your immortal soul before the earth explodes in the next few days. I am not sure what I possibly could have written for this ad to be at all appropriate, but maybe I said the word "hell" one time too many. Apparently your soul can be saved by clicking on his ad. Hey! Maybe he could partner with Google and provide an Auto Save button on his site, like Google provides on blogger. Your immortal soul could automatically be saved every few minutes.

I like having Google ads so I don't really want to get rid of them. They add a certain (insert French term here that I cannot spell but it means something like ambiance) to my site. Plus I need the four cents a day that the ads bring in order to purchase porridge for my 10 children. Ok that was a lie. I don't have 10 children.

Click here to read Google's gloating about how great their keyword targeting is. Their technology is so exact, they brag, that if you write a blog post about a cup of java coffee, their system will know that you are not talking about the computer language Java. Maybe this is an alphabetical thing. They have gotten to words related to coffee but haven't gotten around to differentiating between culinary words and people that need a date.

The last time I wrote something disparaging about Google, my blog experienced some technical difficulties. So let me apologize in advance for the problems that my blog will be experiencing and hope that they will be brief.

Unfortunately timed Google ads:

A diabetes testing meter ad ran for a while next to my post on international candy. That's the advertising equivalent of placing ads for bathroom scales in a Wendy's.

My favorite Google Ad:

Decals for your stand mixer from!

I think that's business concept may be somewhat limited however and suggest they try thinking of other cylindrical, vibrating objects they might be able to make decals for. I personally can't think of a single one.

SuperTarget Sponsorship:

Did you all see that I actually had SuperTarget sponsorship via a Google ad for about 2 minutes, sometime last week in the middle of the night? In previous editions of As the Blog World Turns I have openly suggested that they send me money for sponsorship. I, in turn, will blog about unique culinary products that they will be selling. A generic ad running for a few seconds in the middle of the night is a start I guess.

And Most Important of All:

Did you know that everytime you click on an ad, an angel gets his wings? Yeah, it's true. This is especially true for Travel Channel ads. And two drunken angels get their wings if its an Anthony Bourdain No Reservations ad.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

McKay's Used Books

Anyone traveling through Tennessee might want to consider stopping at McKay's in either Knoxville or Chattanooga. Unlike many other used bookstores, McKay's is well organized so it's much easier to find what you are looking for. The stores themselves are huge. Knoxville has a two-story cavernous warehouse sized building with an elevator which goes to the music loft. Because of the huge selection, traffic is high at both stores, even at midday when you'd think people would be at work or school.

So why do these interior McKay's photos show a nearly empty store? Knoxvillians and Chattanoogans would assume they were taken before the store opens as it is pretty much crowded at every other time. The pictures were actually taken at about 4pm, when the store should be in full swing.

That's because this is the new Nashville store! Nashvillians have not yet discovered McKay's leaving lots of good stuff still on the shelves not yet picked over by bookaholics, musicholics, and movieholics, looking for a good bargain.

I traded in old CD's, audiobooks, and DVDs and earned enough in trade to get the latest David Sedaris book and one other, both on CDs and unabridged, for the $40 in trade that I earned.