Foals – Metronome Festival, Prague, June 26, 2016

I have just wrapped up one of the best weekends of my life.  Two great musical acts played literally in my back yard and I was able to take my kids, both under the age of 10, to see them for free.  And we freaking pogoed!

In case you missed my previous post, Saturday’s show was hosted by none other than Iggy Pop.  Over the course of a little more than an hour, Iggy rained down catalog favorite after favorite from the Stooges to his latest offering, “Post Pop Depression”.  Interspersed between the songs were more F-bombs than you could shake a stick at. I guess if there is a bright side to that part of the equation, the girls didn’t hear those words coming out of my mouth!  Since Iggy is now 70, I can just tell them that those are words only grandpa’s say.

On Sunday night, the first ever Metronome Festival in Prague upped the ante with night-two headliners, Foals.  I’ve seen Foals play before and I can only describe the environment of seeing them play as “kinetic”.  Sunday’s show was no different but given the location of the show on the edge of Prague’s Stromovka Park, there was a little more elbow room.  That was a good thing because I again had NH1 and 2 in tow.  Mrs. NH and my trusty nephew sidekick also took part.  The 73 lb. NH1 sat on my shoulders for the duration save for about three quick breaks between songs and the encore.  As my shoulders ached toward the tail end of the show, the band brought out its closing songs which were all adrenaline-fueled stomps and helped me to push through the final minutes.  I felt like Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky IV” pulling logs on chains through the snow.  Of course I don’t recall him singing along while doing that.  Wuss.

Again, the highlight of these shows was getting to introduce my girls to such great acts in a live setting – up close and personal.  My first live show was an 80’s version of the largely hollowed out Beach Boys touring circuit.  Even still, I remember it like it was yesterday.  The fact that the girls got to see a legend in yet another career resurgence and one of the top UK bands (who had just played Glastonbury a couple nights before) made the whole thing all the more special.

Even more gratifying was that NH1’s unsolicited post-show commentary was exactly the same thing that I was thinking:

Dad, toward the beginning I was really thinking that Iggy had them beat.  But as the show went on, they really started playing the great songs and now I’m not sure who was better!  That was so awesome.  I can’t wait to see U2!

So we’re clear, U2 doesn’t even have a new album out or tour plans as of this writing but I’ve got to give the kid credit for her foresight.

NH2, on the other hand, just howled, charged me and gave me the rock and roll hand sign before giving me a hug.  She always has been pretty punk rock.

Thanks for the memories, Metronome Festival.  See you next year.

Iggy Pop – Metronome Festival, Prague, June 25, 2016

The Little NH’s, my nephew and I hit Iggy Pop at the Metronome festival in Prague last night.  It was quite possibly one of the highlights of my dadhood to this point.  There’s nothing that compares to seeing your own offspring digging one of your hobbies (obsessions) as much or more than you do.  NH 1 and 2 rocked out on my shoulders and those of my nephew (a great sport, by the way) in about the 5th row for the first half of the show.  After NH1’s 73 pounds finally wore down my lower back, we made it through a hugely polite crowd to the back to partake in some whirling dervish-like festival dancing. They did, anyway.  I just watched and smiled.

For the record, the girls were wearing proper ear protection.  I’m not a total idiot.

This is the first year of this festival and from what we saw, it was meticulously organized and went off with a hitch despite rain and hail during the day.  (Iggy’s set was cut short because of a thunderstorm that rolled in in the final moments cutting his set two songs short.)

Seeing Foals tonight with the girls, nephews, and Mrs. NH as well.  We’re all walking around the house whistling “Mountain at my Gates” this morning.  The anticipation is running high.  It’s going to be hard to top last night.

 

Christmas Market Time

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Here is a picture NH2 and I co-drew after hitting the Christmas markets in Krakow, Poland. It’s a depiction of an ornament stand. Buying the red skull decoration was my idea. Hey, I live in a house full of girls.  I have to exert my influence when I can.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra at Obecní dům, Prague 01-12-13

Glenn Miller Orchestra Prague

Glenn Miller’s iconic “In the Mood” is not normally thought of as a song that would make you get choked up.  However, on Saturday night, it did just that.

After flailing around for a Christmas gift for Little NH, I happened on tickets to see the Glenn Miller Orchestra in Prague.  The show was Little NH’s first concert ever and she reminded me of that fact during the entire week that lead up to the show.  She also recounted in great detail how she had opened my gift on Christmas Eve and was confused.  She reminded me how I started up my turntable and the first notes of the aforementioned song crackled out of the speakers.  She said she was excited when I explained to her that we’d be going to see this show and that this music was popular before rock and roll was even invented.  “Before rock and roll?” she intoned.  “Wow.”

The Glenn Miller Orchestra occupies a pretty large place in my heart and my family history.  Before I was born, my grandparents Reon and Helen owned the Turnpike Ballroom in Lincoln, Nebraska.  As a kid, I used to love to venture into the musty corners of the attic and pull out the boxes of autographed pictures, business correspondence and mementos of the fabled ballroom.  I first discovered Miller’s music when I played trombone in the 7th grade band.  I remember my teacher telling my row of pubescent trombone players to play the “Bah Bah’s!” with much more feeling.  In fact, I think of that every time I hear the song.  So imagine how excited I was when I found an autographed shot of Glenn Miller among the pictures in my attic.

In the years that followed I asked my grandma about the Turnpike and Glenn Miller’s visits there every chance I got.  The result of those conversations became the basis for my high school “term paper” and my enthusiasm and fascination for the subject matter garnered me my one-and-only A+ of my academic career.  Do what you love, they say.

So the happiness I felt by being able to share a bit of this family history with my oldest daughter was enough to make “In the Mood” a tearjerker.  As we sat in our seats at the show, Little NH bounced in her seat along with the music.  I half expected her to stand up and dance in place.  The music was a mixture of Miller’s hits and other staples from the Big Band era.  At one point in the show, Little NH leaned back and whispered in my ear, “Boy, Daddy.  I hope they are going to play Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree with Anybody Else But Me soon! It’s her “second favorite” song.  This is from a kid that has been listening to Miller for about two weeks.  I guess the affinity runs in the family.  She also knows my second favorite Miller staple is “Little Brown Jug”.

Of course, my favorite is the one that brings back all of these memories.

As we walked home from the show I told Little NH, “You know, for the rest of my life I’ll think of you whenever I hear a Glenn Miller tune.”  “Even when I get old?” she asked?  Blinking hard in the cold winter air I replied, “Especially then, sweetie.  Especially then.”

Liberation Celebration 2012 – Prague, Czech Republic

When living overseas, there aren’t a ton of places for Americans to celebrate the greatness of our nation.  (Yes, I love my country.  Yes, I know it’s not in fashion.  Deal with it.)  So when the celebrations commemorating the liberation of the Czech Republic from the Nazi occupation came around, I jumped at the chance to partake.  I also took the opportunity to take Little NH1 along for a bit of a history lesson.

Five years may seem like a tender age to be learning about geopolitics of the past and present but I’d rather get my viewpoint in there before she gets a skewed version from some other source.  On our walk to the event, we talked in general terms about WWII and about what brave American soldiers did for the Czech people and much of Europe all of those years ago.  I explained that the Czechs are our allies (like our friends) and described Hitler and the Nazis (a big army led by a very, very bad man).  It seemed to click with her and I’m looking forward to hearing her version in a few days or weeks when I least expect it.  That’s how those things happen.

The celebration itself took place on a warm Friday morning in front of the US Embassy in Prague.  Though the US actually only liberated the country up through Plzen in the west, the celebration starts in Prague and continues around the country for the next week or two.  The street in front of the embassy was lined with restored motorcycles and Jeeps belonging to enthusiasts from around Europe.  A big band was assembled on the street and played patriotic songs and swing tunes of the era.

Little NH1 heard Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” and appeared to be just about as taken by it as her dad.  An impromptu Czech couple danced to the music and the crowd mulled around admiring the vehicles and the glorious weather and celebrating the commemoration of the liberation of the Czech people.

As we walked away from the celebration to return her school, she told me, “Daddy, I’m glad we’re Americans.”

Mission accomplished.

Belle Princess and Hello Kitty Cake

As I sit in my office and fret about the fate of the freedom of information in far flung countries, my wife agonizes, yes, agonizes about cakes for the birthdays of my two little girls.  To her, a good crumb coat is just as important as stemming nuclear proliferation.  The search for black food coloring in Prague triggered a sort of culinary Amber Alert with all of my Czech associates.  The lady takes her cakes seriously.  And it shows.

Here is the first one she did while home with the girls in Texas to celebrate Little NH1’s fifth birthday.  For those of you who don’t know, this is Belle, from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  I don’t think Little NH 1 has even bothered to sit through that movie.  Nevertheless, Belle stuff is all over my two bedroom apartment.  Books by the toilet (er, potty), stickers in drawers, costumes and shoes in corners.  So I guess it was fitting that this cake was featured for Little NH1’s 5th.  I didn’t get to eat the Belle cake but all who were in attendance proclaimed that it tasted as good as it looked.

When I was a little kid I had a Cookie Monster cake one year and then a Darth Vader cake a few years later.  I mention this because for some of my faithful readers who were in attendance, this will conjure up some funny memories.  But I digress…

Using her freshly honed cake decorating skills, Mrs. NH traveled across the Atlantic, Hello Kitty cake pan in hand.  She decided she was going to go simple for Little NH1’s family birthday celebration in Prague.  I stopped off at the local pizza joint and got some margherita pizzas to go.  When I got home, I found the Hello Kitty cake below.

The frosting was from scratch.  Butter cream, I think.  I can only imagine how long piping that thing took.  Kind of made my pizza contribution look mediocre.  I’m getting used to that.  Think they are, too.

Yes, she’s a heckuva mom.  Not a bad baker, either.

Salmon Tartare

There’s something fishy going on at NotHemingway.com.  It’s a guest commentary from the culinary troubadour, Fredericksburg Flash.  He first brought you a commentary on the Salt ‘ till ya Drop post a few years back.  The spirit has moved him again and he’s decided to contribute even more great food experiences to the blog.  This man has tasted food in more countries than I can count so if Flash says it’s good, take note.  Welcome back, Flash!

6 March, 2012, by Fredericksburg Flash

Awhile back while traveling, Mrs. FF and I saw an item on the menu that piqued our curiosity. It was listed in appetizers as Salmon Tartare.

Something must have had a greater attraction, because we did not order it that meal. It has always been in the back of my mind, and last week I decided I would experiment with a recipe. I should explain that Mrs. FF and I both really enjoy cooking but I rarely use a strict recipe. I will attempt to give you the building blocks I used, but feel free to add your own flavor touches.

Start with a skinless salmon fillet. Cut into 1/2” chunks and in a nonreactive bowl, squeeze the juice of a couple limes over the salmon. As in ceviche, the lime juice “cooks” the fish. Stir to expose all of the fish to lime juice. I then refrigerate for no more than 2 hours. Now I add Dijon mustard and whole grain mustard. Add just enough to coat the fish. This also acts to stop the cooking process. Next add capers, sea salt and lots of fresh dill weed. Cover to seal and refrigerate for a couple of hours to let the flavors marry. I served it with a slice of just baked “One Minute Ciabatta”, as previously presented on NH’s blog. Mrs. FF and like wine…all kinds of wine. Not being wine snobs, we don’t always follow all of the”Wine Rules” We chose a Merlot from Cap Rock Winery, Lubbock, Texas. We also had a baby spinach salad with a light coating of quality olive that we recently brought back from Tuscany.

I think presentation is always a major part of the meal. We had purchased 16, two ounce martini glasses from Crate and Barrel. We’ve used them for other appetizers and drinks, and they worked well for this. I’m pretty sure this will be featured at our next home dinner party.

Chicken and Dumplings or Chicken ‘n Dumplins

Growing up in Nebraska I always loved chicken and dumplings.  My dumpling world was limited to the ones Mom made, however.  If I recall correctly, these were dumplings made with Bisquick.  They were delicious and a personal favorite but they are considerably different than the ones you’ll find on order in Texas.  Mom’s were pillowy spoonfulls as opposed to the traditional wide Texas strips.

My Texas experience with dumplings began at the Paris Coffee Shop.  Fridays were the special day of the week when Paris served wall-to-wall patrons with delicious helpings of chicken ‘n dumplins on cafeteria style trays along with traditional Texas sides like steamed okra.  It was a pilgrimage for many of us.  Comfort food after ill advised nights out or breaks from study sessions.  (Oh, who am I kidding, the latter probably never happened.)

So, imagine my delight when my wife-to-be brought me home to Houston during a break in the semester only to introduce me to her Gramma, in the kitchen, preparing a delicious pot of chicken and dumplins.  Mrs. NH’s family was serious about this dinner.  My future father in law even had his own dumpling bowl.  I’ll admit, I was a bit taken back by the seriousness of the whole ritual.  Dedicated dumplin bowls?

Yet, as soon as I took my first bite of these dumplins, I realized exactly what all the fuss was about.  I wanted this recipe in my family.  Marriage seemed like a pretty good way to lock it in.

So imagine my glee last Saturday night.  I was in the NH kitchen to witness the first mother-daughter joint dumplin cookoff.  Mrs. NH passed down the recipe and technique to Little NH just as her Gramma did before she passed away.  I have to say, love must be a major component in this recipe.  Because with both generations of NH girls in on the cooking, they tasted better than they ever have.  And that’s saying something.

Oh, and a note on the spelling of “dumplin”; I was informed at my first meal with the family of my wife to be that dropping the G was the correct pronunciation.  You think I’d argue and risk getting a second helping?

I have to say, it’s great to have family traditions like this especially when all I have to do is eat the finished product.  With any luck, my girls will pass this tradition down to my grandkids some day.  Time to get me a dumplin bowl.

Cinderella Princess Cake

I put a lot of effort into blog posts on music and travel.  Still, the post on the Minnie Mouse cake continues to be the most visited post on this blog.  I could be upset but instead I’m happy to ride the coattails of my wife’s baking ability on the way to more site visits.

Since cakes are such a hit here, this is today’s creation.  We’re celebrating Little NH2’s birthday a little early, so we could all enjoy the Sunday afternoon together.  It’s about 10 degrees Farenheit outside and the warm oven in the house is welcome.

My wife tells me that this cake design was used by her mother for her birthday, with a full-sized Barbie and full-sized bunt cake.  This particular cake was done using a mini bunt pan and smaller Cinderella figure.  (I’ve gotten to be a pro at anything Disney Princess lately.)

Mrs. NH and Little NH have been decorating cupcakes as well.  I’m definitely going to benefit from all of this for dessert.  And lest I forget, Happy First Birthday Little NH2!

Pizza or Pakistan?

I didn’t choose; the Pakistani Embassy in Prague chose for me.  I didn’t get a visa to visit Pakistan in time so I did what any smart man would do.  I stayed home and cooked.  From Friday night through Sunday night Mrs. NH and I made/ate/froze:

2 Pizza Margheritas
14 doughs for pizza crust
1 Breakfast Burrito
2 Cheesesteak Sandwiches
48 Flour Tortillas
27 Crepes
1 Batch Tortilla Soup

It was an incredible weekend and the freezers are full.  And my pants still fit.
That beats Islamabad any day.

A Perfect Day in San Sebastian – Part 2

“Siesta” marks a huge split in the day in Spain.  I have been told that for those Spaniards in the corporate world, it is a thing of the past.  However, in the small hill towns of La Rioja and even the winding back streets of “La Parte Vieja” of San Sebastian, it is still very much a part of daily life.  Therefore, we planned our day to deflect the gap that is sometimes left by siesta in order to pack as much into our last Sunday in Spain.  (This article is part two of the article that began here.)

Stop 5: Ostertz – Coffee and Sherry and Regional Education

After a big morning and early afternoon of feasting, some good digestion was in order.  Mrs. NH and I settled on a small, busy cafe/bar right along the waterfront on the opposite side of La Concha Bay – facing the new town of San Sebastian.  We weren’t the only family that sought shaded refuge and something to sip on for continued strength.  After our coffees, I opted for a nice fino Sherry and Mrs. NH suggested that I, “Ask if they can make me a rebujito!”  Discovered while touring Jerez a few years back, a rebujito is a drink that consists of Sprite or some kind of bubbly lemon drink mixed with fino Sherry.  I prefer not to pollute my fino with anything.  However, Mrs. NH doesn’t ask for much so the least I could do is ask at the bar keep.  My inquiry was met with incredulity from the bartender and eye rolls and independent commentary from another patron inside the bar.  “This isn’t Andalucía,” he offered.  Luckily, I had ordered my fino puro first and was able to believably pass off my request for what it was – a request from my wife.  When I returned to the table with a fino and a cerveza clara, I marveled with my wife about how truly regional Spanish food and drink is.  I also relayed the fact that despite almost being laughed out of the bar for my order, both bartender and patron were curious to know the exact ingredients and proportions of a proper rebujito.  The best part, they asked the American!

Stop 6: Merry Go Round and Potato Chips

As a father, I’ve seen a lot of playgrounds in a lot of towns in a lot of countries.  If you have kids of your own, you know how it is.  If they see a playground, they want to stop.  Same goes with merry go rounds.  My girls are good travelers so if there is time in the day,  I don’t mind spending a bit of it doing things they like.  I feel it ads harmony to the overall trip experience (as well as the obvious “carrot” for good behavior).  So, kid fun time completed, we proceeded to the paved mosaic waterfront of San Sebastian.  On the way we saw a man selling 1.50 euro bags of potato chips and did not waste any time in forking over our coin for a modest bag.  The reason we shelled out almost $2.25 for a small bag of chips?  Experience.  Spanish potato chips can be really tasty – like the ones sold in La Plaza del Salvador in Sevilla.  The ones in San Sebastian were no exception.  Thick cut, salty, slightly greasy and really satisfying.  Between that and the sunset walk along the ocean, it was the perfect primer to an evening of tapas and delightful Spanish mayhem.

Stop 7: Ormazabal

Part of Little NH’s fascination with Spain comes from a part of the Spanish tapas bar culture that seems entirely counter to everything she has been taught about cleanliness.  At first, she was terrified to toss a used napkin on the floor of Spanish a tapas bar.  However, by the end of the trip, she was asking, “Daddy, are you done with your napkin?  When you are, give it to me so I can throw it on the floor.”  When in Spain…, right?

For our second to last tapas stop of the evening, we hit Ormazabal for a round of family favorites from our last several days in Spain.  The friendly folks behind the counter made a couple recommendations and even delivered the items right to our table – and we had a great time bantering in English, Spanish and sorta-French with them.  Our orders consisted of some of the best food we had eaten in Spain and included: meatballs (albondigas), spinach croquetas, peppers stuffed with bacalao, octopus in its ink and beef cheeks.  Having settled into a comfortable table in the back with room for the stroller (which at this point in the trip resembled more of a covered wagon), we decided to stay put and made this tapas stop more of a meal.  We ordered 2-3 more rounds of food, each accompanied by great banter with the help, and departed very satisfied for a very modest price.

Unfortunately, for Little NH, not all restaurants in Spain cater to the “napkin on the floor” tradition – including Ormazabal.  So, we had one more stop.

Stop 8: Munto Jatetxea Redux

One good turn deserves another, right?  As we were heading north to France the next morning and Little NH2 was asleep in her stroller, we decided to head back to Munto Jatetxea for our last plates of tapas.  Mrs. NH had not had enough pimientos de padrón on this trip and I had no problem helping her gobble up the heaping plate while our youngest slept in the stroller amidst the din of the patronage in the bar.  At the other end of the hyperactivity spectrum, Little NH stood outside in the pedestrian traffic only street and danced and sang to a tune residing somewhere deep inside her head.  Folks alternately chuckled at her, danced with her and dodged her.  We all got to do what we loved best.  Of course, Little NH took a break every now and then to come inside, sip some juice and toss down my used napkins.