Posts Tagged ‘Mom’

Ode to my Mams

October 4, 2011

Today was my first day off in quite a while and I finally had a moment to celebrate the Fall season appropriately: With baking! I woke up early to attend spin class, which was worse than others, before attempting to find the very best fall dinner recipe ever. However, upon searching and searching online with Pandora playing in the background, I couldn’t find a damn thing that pricked my interest. Then the Interent stopped working altogether. We pay over $100 a month for the World Wide Web and it was giving me the bird.

So I called my Mams. As I suspected, she had the perfect recipe for me. In fact, she had three! A gingersnap cookie recipe, a brown-sugar carrot side dish and of course, the best present of all: Flank Steak stuffed with Almonds, Cranberries and breading. Delicious!  I’m attaching the recipes for everyone else to enjoy. Throughout my childhood, my mother would always make dinner for the family. Every single night. I learned the importance of embracing the change in seasons with festive meals. The scent of cinnamon, butter and cranberries filled my house and coated the walls with seasonal bliss. I love Fall! While outside was about 65 degrees, I still pretended my Fall day was filled with cool air and gray skies. The day of orange and brown crunching leaves. I hope you’ll celebrate with me and enjoy some home grown cookin’. Here are my recipes:

Ginger Snap Cookies

After eating four ginger snaps, I stopped counting.

Combine the following all together in a large bowl: 2 ¼ cups flour, ¾ cup oil, ¼ cup dark molasses (if all you’ve got is light molasses, use it.  The darker will make the cookies a little richer color and flavor, but either totally works.) ¼ cup maple syrup or maple-flavor syrup, 2 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. ground ginger, ½ tsp. ground cinnamon, ½ tsp. ground cardamom, ¼ tsp. salt, 1 large egg. With mixer at low speed, beat ingredients until well bended, occasioanly scraping bwol with rubber spatula.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Place 2 Tablespoons sugar on waxed paper (or in pie plate, or something flat.)  Shape dough into small or large balls; roll in sugar to coat evenly.  Repeat with remaining dough.Place balls 3 inches apart, on ungreased cookie sheets.  (Dough is very soft; balls will flatten slightly.) Bake cookies.  For small balls:  8 minutes.  For large balls:  15 minutes.  (Give or take, depending on your oven.)With pancake turner, remove cookies to wire racks to cool.  Store in tightly covered container.

Please believe I cooked this hunk of meat PRIOR to serving it!

Stuffed Flank Steak

Prepare Stuffing Mix from a box as directed; stir in one egg. Also, add nuts, dried fruit, and parsley for additional flavor.  Pound and score flank steak; season with salt and pepper.  Spread steak with Stuffing and roll up, tying with string.  Roll in flour and brown in 2 Tbsp. butter or margarine.  Add 1 can (15 oz.) beef gravy, I can 2 ½ oz. drained sliced mushrooms, 2 Tbsp. white wine.  Simmer, covered, 45 minutes or until tender.  Slice and serve with gravy.  Makes 6 servings. (Somehow, Nick and I managed to eat most of this entree! So, I don’t know how 6 people would split it!)

Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots

I am a carrot.... I love you.

1 pound medium carrots, parsnips, turnips, or baby carrots. 1 Tbsp. butter or margarine, 1 Tbsp. brown sugar. Cut the carrots in half, both crosswise and lengthwise.  (If you’re using baby carrots, just use your judgment on whether or not you need to cut them in order to eat them easily.) In a medium saucepan, cook carrots, covered, in a small amount of boiling water for 8 – 10 minutes (I steam mine) until crisp-tender.  Drain; remove from pan. In the same saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, and dash salt.  Cook and stir over medium heat until combined.  Add carrots.  Cook, uncovered, about 2 minutes or until glazed, stirring frequently.  Season to taste with pepper. Easy to make ahead and put in frig the same day as serving.  Pop into microwave for a few minutes just before serving.

A finished product!

This is what I enjoyed tonight after my wonderful day off. I also sipped on a 2008 Ex Umbris Syrah from Columbia Valley, WA, as a firm tribute to my Mams. She was after all the one who made this meal posssible!

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September 16, 2011

September 21, 2011

(round two, first entire article didn’t save)

Five years of dedication and grueling reading were finally coming to a head in the middle of September. From the point of clicking my seat belt, I had about 15 hours until I would have everything I’d worked for judged and tried. The ride down to NYC was filled with dingy flash cards, the DOCs of Italy, grilled chicken and dried almonds with a side of more flash cards. I still can’t believe that only three months ago, I sat for my Level One through the Court of Master Sommeliers. My five-year-long determination to acquire the coveted title of “sommelier” was only further encouraged when I joined my awesome job back in April. I wanted to feel valid and qualified for my position.

“Oh! Are you the sommelier?”

“… I’m part of the wine team,” I would reply politely. Yes, my card says “sommelier” but I wanted the official pin. The purple pin no bigger than a nickel that would prove my dedication. The one pin to rule them all 😀 I’ve felt very strongly about people calling themselves a sommelier without paying their dues. An LPN can’t call herself a Doctor, why should some wino call themselves a somm? Let me assure you, I would have rather been at the gym or sleeping instead of reading before work!  I craved the validity of a certificate, I couldn’t be the pretty girl who sold wine without any real accreditation.

Ergo, New York City! I didn’t sleep at all the night before the exam. My brain was racing with regions, obscure wines, the wines I choose to present and of course, just dreading the unknown. Why did I choose Domaine Meo-Camuzet? Should I go all baller status and recommend Domaine Armand Rousseau? Where is Italy again? How do you get wine from grapes?…. My night was rough to say the least. I gave up and got out of bed loooong before my alarm was set to scream. Name all 13 Aubangebiete, give a tasting note for Aglianco, what are the styles of Sherry? I reviewed again and again before determining I was becoming ineffective. With no sleep in my future, I got dressed for the exam in my Sunday best. I figured that a new outfit couldn’t hurt my chances! Breakfast was out of the question, of course, I could barely keep it together as it was.

The walk to the Culinary Institute was like walking a wobbling plank off a pirate ship or tying off your own noose. Everything I’d been working so far for was coming to a head right at that very moment, I wanted to scream. My brain was racing through appellations, wines and regions, confusing everything into a huge mess. For all I could tell, Portugal was now a part of Australia. How do you spell Caliphornia?

The Culinary Institute appeared around a corner and a small cluster of people were gathered around the door. Yes, they were also here for the exam. We rode the city’s slowest elevator to the 5th floor and the doors opened into a bright large room with shinning wooden floors. I surveyed the other candidates as I walked to a wall and stood apart. I was one of ten other women and one of the youngest people there. The clean, white room was walled by large windows which looked out onto the alley and street. One side of the room was a glass wall from where chefs instructed and created amazing cakes. I made small talk with other candidates as we all tried to figure one another out. One piece of advice that another sommelier from Dante had offered me was to stay focused and not talk with the others. Some of the conversations were intimidating and I struggled to maintain my cool. I wanted to word vomit as quickly as I could all over this exam, giving my best answers without the misdirection of the conversations happening around me.

One of the Master sommeliers, a young woman named Laura Maniec, came out to us and beckoned us to follow her to our exam room. We all strutted down the hallway which was lined with more windows into the kitchen. The new chefs eyed the sea of suits invading their space. I glanced back at the walls of spices and utensils, the institute was truly beautiful. We filed into the large bright exam room and chose seats. The Court of Master Sommeliers’ proctors proceeded to call roll and when the coordinating master,  Laura DePasquale, got to my name, she said:

“Laura Duffy?…. you have a lot of pressure on you, Ms. Duffy, there are already two other Lauras up here!”

Wonderful. We started the exam with a blind tasting which would be followed by the exam itself and finally a presentation. As I went through the inital portion of typical wine analysis – sight, smell, tas—- oh shit! I had brushed my teeth! Everything was acid! I glanced around the room and saw that other candidates were in worse shape than I was with their coffee cups and soda. Fine, adapt.

I turned in my tasting sheet and received my exam… of 30 questions!!!! The entire world of wine was wrapped up into only 30 questions!!! I had read online that the exam ranged around 75 questions and I thought at least 100 would have been appropriate. What now!? I quickly figured out that couldn’t get more than six wrong without dipping below a 75%. Fine, adapt again.

Side note: I noticed that a fellow blogging sommelier didn’t give any more information about the exam than what I revealed, so I will end my description here.

After double-triple checking my work (I had of course, double bubbled!), I turned in my exam and swiftly exited the building. Several other candidates left in a similar manner, no one had smiles on their face.

“Where is Campania?”

“Italy.”

“Who produces Comte de Champagne?”

“I said Tattinger… I could see the label in my head.”

“What is Speyside known for?”

“Scotch.”

“… that DOES it!” (this response was from me)

My presentation was schedule for 10:30 (yeaaaaa alphabet!) and I had about one hour to continue to prepare. I was set with Chateau Gruard Larose and Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace for my Cabernet and you already saw what I was thinking for my Pinot Noirs. I shpealed them to my comrade at Starbucks (because jittery caffeine was exactly what the doctor ordered…. NO.) I briskly walked about to the Culinary Institute and again enjoyed the slow elevator. The door opened and the blinding sun slapped me in the face as I went to sit by the other 10:30 group members. I didn’t talk to anyone, I wanted to focus. The 10am group came down the hallway with a variety of facial expressions and we pounced upon them for tips. Give an amaro, expect this, think of that…. sigh.

My turn. I was the only woman in my group of four and we stood in a line before the Masters and awaited further assignment. Again, while it was never formally stated that I couldn’t disclose any information about what happened during my presentation, I don’t think it’s appropriate online. Call me.

My session of 15 minutes concluded and I politely thanked my proctor before exiting the exam room. I could have run down that long glass hallway to the nearest bar, but I had a skirt on… From that moment, I had about six hours before the pinning ceremony to contemplate all the things I may have f’ed up on. Every answer I’d given, every question I didn’t know, everything I forgot to say, my general table presence and poise was being judged right then and there. I was removed from influence.

So, like any sensible woman, I went shopping. Oh boy, did I make some great decisions including an insane pair of heels that have scarred me with one of the worst blisters I’ve ever had (currently, I cannot wear shoes without searing pain, it’s like a blister and a bruise and something else… very bad). The awaited hour came quicker than I thought it would and soon enough, I was hurrying back to the Institute to hear my fate. When the lazy elevator finally spit me out again into that opening room, the sun was still shinning in the most aggressively blinding manner. I couldn’t see for a second as I stepped out onto the floor. As luck would have it, I was one of the last people to arrive and I noticed we’d dropped a few candidates in the few hours that proceed the ceremony. Some people seems jolly but most appeared to be a nervous as I was. My comrade was certain we both passed, but I just couldn’t shake that nervous prickle. Amid my nerves and angst, I could hear heels clicking down on the wooden floors…

“Good afternoon, candidates! Please follow me,”  instructed Ms. Maniec and beckoned us back into our exam room, down the glass hall way fill with chefs and white hats behind windows. We filed into the one door entrance and saw before us a display of letters, certificates, champagne and of course, the five Master Sommeliers. The ceremony started and we were handed 1996 Krug Brut Champagne (baaaaaallin’!) to celebrate/drink away our sorrows. I stood there as Ms. DePasquale started calling out our names. I couldn’t be the very last again! I wouldn’t make it. Oh my god, if I’m not called, I’m moving back to Washington or running away to the Loire. Hey, am I locking my knees? I think I might fain—

“Laaaaaura Duffy!”

I didn’t grab my heart like I did in June but I could have shrieked and kissed every single one of the proctors. The crowd of candidates parted and I walked up to the front to accept the purple, nickle-sized sommelier’s pin. My presentation proctor, Fred Dexheimer, handed me my certificate and sommelier pin.

“Thank you so  much, sir,” I breathed.

“You did this,” he assured me with a grin and I took what was mine from his hands. I joined the other three newly crowned sommeliers off in the front corner and slightly turn my back to the crowd. I wasn’t going to cry…. gasp. Suddenly that bright, blinding sunlight didn’t seem so violent. In fact, it was a beautiful day, wasn’t it?

The certificates were nearly handed out before my work companion received his pin and I felt such a wave of relief. We did it! We both just passed the Level Two exam!… I helped myself to a second glass of bubbles… it’s becoming a tradition.

Certified Sommelier, Sept. 16, 2011

“I’d like to thank all the candidates who participated and a special thank you to those who have joined our fraternity,” said the coordinating master. She graciously reached out to those who hadn’t been so fortunate to pass and encouraged them. Half of the class didn’t pass and I was one of three women to join the ranks on September 16th, 2011. Surrounded by new sommeliers, I turned and congratulated those around me. We all stayed in the room for a moment but I snuck off to call my mom as soon as it seemed appropriate. I calmly walked down that glass hall way to the bright open room and I could feel the tears creating a huge catch in my throat. I walked straight to one of those open, bright windows and put my phone to my ear. The phone rang twice before my mom picked up her line and with searing hot tears already dropping from my eyes, I gasped and breathed,

“Mom, I’m a sommelier.”

$25 and a pair of Kate Spade booties

January 3, 2011

I flew to Seattle for a whirl wind Christmas. It was even more jam-packed with to-dos than my suitcase! My best friend, Kristin – who I didn’t even get a chance to see! – said this trip was probably my busiest, save one other trip a few years back. I don’t remember which time she was referring to but my god, this trip bit me in the ass. One possible reason why everything was such a cluster f*ck was I brought my boyfriend to Seattle with me. Trying to visit with my family that I see once a year and attempting to keep my honey entertained/comfortable as well proved to be something of yard sale: All over the place. However, Christmas Day this year was aaaaaawesome! I received everything I asked for and more, the key gift being a pair of perfect black Kate Spade boots with perfect red bows!

Would you like to go bare foot or wearing my boots?

I left Seattle only four days after arriving to battle the nasty N0r’eastern storm that was rocking the New England area and leaving hundreds of flights delayed or cancelled. To be honest, I shouldn’t have been leaving in the middle of a such a storm but I had to cut my trip in half to work. Whatever. So, my boyfriend and I drove back to the SeaTac to return our rental car, leaving behind a slew of fun things left undone. I had no idea that our adventures were far from over!

The estimated cost of the Dollar Rental car was $96 for four days. I have the confirmation code to prove it. The actual price we paid was $172. Taxes, they said, and literally stopped talking to me about it. End of discussion, get the F outta here. I always end up spending more than I anticipated when I travel but I didn’t mean for it to be on something so lame. Jeans or wine perhaps, not a stupid car.

Ma gave my $25 for travel money moments before I tried to keep my shit together when I bid my fam a dieu. I figured I’d just spend the cash on booze during our layover in Denver. After returning our lame and over-priced car, we made it to the airport ticket counter to throw our bags into someone else’s hands.

“Your bag is just at the limit,” scolded the ticket lady. “Next time, put the heaviest bag up first.” Apparently we ruined her system by putting Nick’s bag on the scale before mine. I am ashamed. We waded through the line of other tourists and visitors, sauntered through customs and finally made it to our gate. Fine, no incident. Our flight to Denver was short and cramped. Nick and I played Angry Birds on his Ipad and caught up on the zzz’s that we missed during our vacation. Whoever said that vay-cays were relaxing has never traveled with me!

We landed late in Denver and I barely had time to pee. We ran to our gate and I specifically remember commenting to Nick, ” I have no idea how old people would have made this connecting flight!” I had missed my seat position of A45 because our Seattle flight took its sweet time taking off and I didn’t get to pick the seat I wanted. Who cares right? Well, I hate babies so I need to make SURE they are nowhere near me or I start to kinda freak out and get anxiety whilst they scream and their mothers just stare at them. No joke, on one of my previous flights years ago, this stupid woman was just staring in dumbfounded wonder at her wailing infant. An older, wiser woman got out of her seat, walked over to the idiot and said,

“You need to walk your baby around and bounce it.”

I still had my $25 at this point and I found some suitable seat. I took my chances with the baby situation and put my carry on luggage above me. My carry ons included a large bag of shoes and a picture of Seattle that Mom and Dad had bought for my house. It was carefully packaged in a flat, large box so not to be dented. The box itself was a present wrapped neatly in green and gold wrapping paper and one little boy said, “I wonder what she got!” Legos… a PSP… thousand dollar bills. No, just a photo. So this old guy got on the plane and wanted the space where I just placed my present. Nevermind the open bins around and behind him, only my bin will do! He took my package out and tipped it over. Sure, we both knew that there’s a flat picture in the box but what if it couldn’t be tipped over!? Dick. So, he shoved his goofy bag into my bin and tried to shove my present back on top of his luggage.

“Easy does it,” he sighed. I get up, this dude is out of his mind. My present won’t fit! I help him turn my box around a bit. “This is mine,” I said with annoy. Whatever. Everything worked out and we took off. The plane landed in Boston and the place was covered from a heavy snowfall. Our bags, or rather, the Southwest Airlines people took their sweet ass time getting our luggage out of the plane and we left the terminal about an hour after landing. Not bad, you say? TRY FLYING FOR TEN HOURS THEN COME TALK TO ME. Nick wasn’t happy about my bag collection. I had four, he had one. Sorry. I have a vagina so I pack more stuff. Plus most of the gifts were in my bag! Aaaand most of the gifts came home in my bag too. We waited and waited for the Silver Line bus to come and get us. As we’re waiting, I’m standing with our bags and Nick is trying to see where the bus stop is. During this process, he discovered the lack of airport courtesy and slipped on a patch of ice that wasn’t salted. He cracked his head on a garbage can and started bleeding! Things went from shitty to shit storm. My honey is bleeding, the bus is late, it’s cold outside, I’m tired, where’s the damn bus, I keep hearing about how many bags I have, I’m sorry, I’m sad, it’s okay to be sad, we need to stop being mad, oh look! it’s the bus. Five bucks for the ride, fine! We went from the bus to the T and rode into Harvard Square to hail a cab. Big shocker, the taxi driver didn’t speak a lick of English and I’m tried not to worry. You all remember that story from The Metro about that psycho cabby who got made at his patrons and stole the girl before she could get out at her stop? Yea. Same guy, I’m sure. We somehow managed to get to our house and everything was just lost under a mountain of snow! I whipped out my $25 from Ma. Nick had to drag all my shit around with him, so I paid for the cab. The cost was $5 something and I asked for $13 back out of my $20. We pulled our bags out of the taxi trunk and stood in a foot of snow before our house. The next question was where are the cars? In Boston during a “snow emergency” the city tows everyone parked on the wrong side of the street (you have to be all-knowing to understand which side of the street!) and they make a pretty penny before lifting a finger to deal with the snow itself. Plows come out, make a mess and return to base. Nick and I were frightened that our cars would have been claimed by this nonsense. We prepared ourselves and peered down the road. BOTH CARS WERE ON THE GOOD SIDE OF THE ROAD! I was and still am amazed. I really thought Nick parked on the bad side of the road! It was incredible. God knows how much the towing fee AND storage fees would have been! Sheesh.

The next day I took the leftover $13 I had from Ma and went to Johnny’s Foodmaster. The place has wall to wall carpeting… don’t buy the produce! I bought the fixing for breakfast (and inevitably, some other random things too!) but upon return, I realized I didn’t get eggs! I’d just used all my money so I gathered up all our empty beer bottles and returned them for the deposit fee. $1.95, aaaaaaaalright! Now we have eggs.  After a hearty eggy breakfast, we set to the task of digging out the cars. Enter my awesome boots!

That's my car and Nick's behind it.

Previously, I was apprehensive about buying galoshes. I thought they were kinda dumb and made you look like a duck. The polka dot booties are simply dreadful. But after careful research, I sent Mom three different pairs that I deemed acceptable and had her pick one out for me. I could not have asked for a more opportune time to utilize my boots, hell, I wouldn’t have asked! Nearly two feet of snow mauled Boston and had to be shoveled away in order to life to continue. My boots received a thorough christening! It took Nick and me about two hours to not only dig our cars out but also to help our landlady shovel her drive way. That wasn’t my idea, it was Nick’s. She has a perfectly fine driveway where we should be allowed to park. She can’t drive anymore because she’s really old and choppy, so her car just chills in the driveway. If we had been allowed to leave our cars in her driveway while we were in Seattle, I would have totally been fine with shoveling. But that didn’t happen at all. We busted up our backs for charity. At least I had my Christmas boots though. And I made up a banging breakfast with my $25.

 Thanks, Mom!