Pesto Filled Panzarotti

I totally lucked into the meal pictured above after a morning strolling around the International Truffle Festival in Alba, Italy.  It was probably one of the best tasting days of my life.  Truffles the size of your fist in the morning, Panzarotti for lunch and wine tasting all afternoon long topped off with more pasta and veal for dinner.  But I digress.

The pasta pictured was a delicate, hand-made Panzarotti with a perfectly smooth cheese and pesto mix in the center and a rich, creamy, sauce to coat.  Mrs. NH looked longingly at my plate all meal long – even with her delicious meat-stuffed ravioli in front of her.  I had ordered the best meal.  But, since she’s carrying the 4th member of the NH clan, I gave her a fair share.

Since eating this pasta I’ve been dreaming of it.  Ravioli is hard to make.  I still haven’t found a recipe that I’ve perfected.  But having eaten this dish, I feel the inspiration to try again.  Any hints or recipes to recommend?  Leave ’em in the comments.

Barolo, Italy

We’re home, the house is still not clean and bigwigs from the home office will greet me on my first day back at work tomorrow.  However, all is well.  I got to fulfill an adulthood dream and see Peidmont and as pictured above, I got to see where they grow and make Nebbiolos, Barolos, Barbarescos and Barberas.  That and the fact that I came home with a trunk full of wine makes me one happy camper.  More on the 2nd leg of the trip in the coming days.

G’Vine Gin

The word “gin” conjures up some serious mental pictures in my head.  My Dad and Mom enjoyed a G&T at happy hour most nights when I was growing up.  Those drinks, chock full of ice and with a pudgy chunk of lime always looked so delicious and refreshing.  I’d try sips as a kid and always walked away slightly repulsed, however.

But as it does for so many things, college changed my opinion of gin.  Hot Texas nights and G&T’s went together naturally when there was actually enough money in my pocket to buy something other than cheap beer.  In the summers between school, I worked outside mowing lawns.  Inevitably, I’d steer my big riding lawn mower around the hedges of one particular church (unintentionally) and catch the branches of juniper bushes, snapping them just enough to release their otherworldly scent.  That gave me an appreciation for the process of gin.

Shortly after came a love of Bombay Sapphire, straight, with ice.  That drink will always stand in my mind as inextricably linked to my time as a double-income-no-kid husband in Washington, DC’s trendiest restaurants.  The blue bottle still beckons and it’s still one of my favorites.

So, it had been a long time since I had tried any “new” gin.  However, on my birthday, a friend saw to it that I try something new.  G’Vine is not a gin I would have bought myself.  First of all, it’s French.  I’ve long chided my Grey Goose drinking buddies that “the French do wine and cheese, not vodka.”  And frankly, I still stand by that.  But something about gin makes French dabbling a bit more acceptable – yet wholly apart from the purists idea of gin.  Of course, how pure is it if it was invented by the Dutch?

I think of G’Vine as more flavored vodka – like most gin, of course.  But this is by no means the “London Dry” in your dad’s liquor cabinet.  It’s full of heady, confusing and contradictory flavors.  So it’s fitting that it’s made in France.  (Wonder if it retreats?)

Distilled from grapes, it is nothing if not smooth.  There is absolutely no bite to this liquor.  There is no need to mix it with anything.  In fact, doing so would most likely result in a terrible outcome.  The mixture of green grape flower, juniper and licorice used to flavor this gin give it a tremendously unique flavor unlike anything I’ve had before.  But there’s an inherent floral sweetness demands the spirit be served on its own.

With G’Vine, I’m happy to comply.  Lightly stirred in a shaker with crushed ice, I strain it into one of my leaded Czech crystal martini glasses and watch the workweek melt away.  Paired with some briny rich Italian Olives, you might even forget that the French don’t do gin.

Summer Barbeque in the Oven

The temperature hovered around 90 degrees Fahrenheit in Prague this weekend and our apartment is on the top floor, with lots of windows and absolutely no A/C.  So, you could say that cranking an oven up to 300° for five hours and 400° for another hour and a half would not be in most families’ plans.  However, we’re not most families.  We are meat loving Texas BBQ freaks by nature.  We miss ribs and brisket.  If we don’t get ribs and brisket, we get cranky.  So, heat be damned, we made ribs and brisket.

I’ve been making Coca-Cola Brisket for years but have finally perfected it.  I have a pretty basic dry rub that I use that consists of paprika, cumin, S&P, garlic and chili powder.  It does the trick for me and doesn’t include any weird (to my palate) aromatics like cinnamon or ginger.  It’s what I imagine cowboys using after rustling cattle all day.  And man, it just works.  That, a 5 pound fatty brisket and a few ounces of Coke and it’s cooking time.

Now this is the part I had to kind of tinker with over the years.  For years I cooked it with the heat too low.  It was always tasty but too tough.  Somewhere I saw a recipe that said I should cook it a 225 F.  Little did I know, that wasn’t hot enough to melt all the fat and make the brisket fork tender – how it should be.  So, I did a little more research online and found that fat melts between 275 and 300 and still keeps the meat moist.  That did it.  The brisket we had this weekend was better than many of the briskets that I sampled on my last swing through Texas.  I know you don’t believe me, but it’s true.  There was just one thing missing – smoke.

However, I took care of the smoke quotient on my second dish, ribs, by cheating with impunity.  I used a bottle of liquid smoke that Fredericksburg Flash and Mrs. Flash had imported on one of their recent trips to Prague.  (To see the more traditional, smoky route taken, check out Scamp’s post here.)  For the ribs, I used the same rub plus a couple of tablespoons of instant coffee and a few dashes of liquid smoke on the ribs.  I put them in a baking dish and poured in a bottle of dark Krušovice beer that I had boiled to reduce by 1/2.  After covering the pan tightly with foil, I put those babies in a 400° oven for 1.5 hours and watched as Ma NH put the finishing touches on some ‘tater salad and doctored a can of baked beans.

The ribs were barely clinging to the bone as I took them out of the oven.  Mrs. NH, not a huge rib fan (she doesn’t like things still on the bone – the McRib demographic?), sampled some of the meat that I pulled off one of the costillas.  She was floored.  I don’t even bother finishing these things on the grill.  The beer and rub give them so much flavor that even a quick dip in BBQ sauce is completely optional.

I congratulated myself loudly through the entire meal.  I think it’s time to have our Prague friends over for an oven BBQ.  This meat combo, Mrs. NH’s potato salad, a cooler of cold beer and a peach pie made with my Grandma’s recipe could make any summer heat tolerable.  Even if you happen to also be standing next to a 400 degree oven.

Paella Valenciana (En Praga)

As the rest of Prague was gearing up for the England v. US World Cup soccer match, I was gearing up for an entirely different challenge.  I was about to make paella, real paella, at home in my kitchen in Prague.  I had made several half-hearted attempts at paella in the past using everything from packaged “saffron” rice (in college) to slightly more authentic chicken and rice pilafs a few years back.  But I had never attempted a real, honest to goodness paella.  All of that was about to change.

However, to begin, I needed an inspirational drink.  Sangria was the perfect accompaniment.  Unlike paella, I have made sangria a million times before.  I’ve pretty much co-opted Fredericksburg Flash’s recipe that he’s been making since I was in diapers.  I have yet to taste better sangria in all the world.  Isn’t it interesting that a dentist from Nebraska holds the gold standard of sangria for pretty much everyone who has tasted it?  I say, why mess with perfection?

So, with fruit cut and the delicious purple nectar providing just the right motivation, I began making the paella.  Scampwalker and I had experienced Paella Valenciana in Valencia a little over a year ago.  I was thoroughly impressed and I sought to make the base of the dish as close to the original as possible.  However, because of my audience and geographic location, I was going to substitute a few ingredients.  I used peas instead of green beans, threw in some chicken breasts instead of all bone-in chicken (I kept some drumsticks in for myself), no chorizo (because the only stuff we can get here adds too much spice) and shrimp instead of some other shellfish.  I didn’t have access to any clams or mussels for this batch, either.  I did have lots of saffron, though and I was pretty sure that could overcome any other shortcoming.

Looking for online recipes, I took the first one I could find.  It was Alton Brown’s Paella recipe and it served as the base for my dish.  I’ve found Brown to be a pretty consistent cook and his recipe had all the things I needed to serve as the base for my escapade.  His recipe is pretty dense with instruction.  He also uses a wood fire.  I used the stove and a big, 15 inch Caphalon pan.  I varied cooking a bit and this is a rough guide to what I did to make the dish.

Paella Valenciana (En Praga)

1 can peeled, chopped tomatoes
9 cups low-sodium chicken broth (heated in microwave)
3 cups short or medium-grain rice
20 threads saffron
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil

4 chicken legs and seasoned with S&P
2 chicken breasts, cubed
and seasoned with S&P
1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups fresh green peas
15 Jumbo shrimp, peeled, tails on

Alton’s directions are much more thorough, but here are mine in a nutshell:

Heat oil on high.  Add chicken and cook 12 minutes.  Add peas, peppers, onions, garlic and cook 2-3 minutes.  Add tomatoes and cook until liquid is reduced, about 4 minutes.  Add rice, saffron, salt, paprika, rosemary and cook one minute – stirring the whole time.  Add 4 cups of heated broth.  Stir only until rice is covered in broth and then don’t stir it again until it’s finished.  Simmer on med-hi heat for 9 minutes.  Add peas.  Add another 4 cups of heated broth.  Simmer another 4 minutes.  Add shrimp on top.  Simmer 3 minutes.  With tongs, flip shrimp but don’t touch the rice!  Simmer 6 minutes or until liquid looks almost gone.

Turn off heat. Cover loosely with a lid and let sit 15 minutes.

The result was one of the best paellas I’ve ever had in my life.  Little NH gobbled it up like it was going out of style.  Mrs. NH, when quizzed, only lamented the lack of chorizo and mussels.  I agreed, but didn’t feel too bad about it as I shoveled delicious fork full after fork full into my mouth.

We finished off the meal with a couple glasses of slightly-chilled Oloroso Sherry.   The nutty, toffee sweetness was the perfect finish to a perfect meal.

As an American taking on a very non-American dish, I fared better than the US against England this evening.  Whereas the US footie team was luck to eke out a draw, my challenge in the kitchen produced a huge win.

La Zucca – Venice, Italy

If I am a seeker of delicious food, Mrs. NH is a “Dog the Bounty Hunter” of it.  She found the best restaurant in Venice, made reservations, and made darn sure we got there on time.  This, on the second-to-last day of our trip, all while dragging an over-caffeinated NH and road-weary Little NH with her.  She rules.

The destination on this outing was La Zucca, a largely, but not totally, vegetarian restaurant in the back streets of one of the least touristy areas in Venice.  She had seen it written up in review after review on the Internet and managed to get a reservation before we left Prague.  It’s an unassuming little corner restaurant, right next to a tiny canal, small bridge and skinny pedestrian street.  It’s just about as cozy as it gets in Venice.  There were about 6 outdoor tables and two ladies taking orders.

Service was friendly, efficient and they even offered to make a half portion of pasta for Little NH.  Since little NH had consumed 1/2 a bag of bagel chips on the way, we took the server up on her offer.  On the other hand, Mrs. NH and I were starving.

We both ordered the Lasagna with Zucchini and Pumpkin Flowers and split an order of the Broccoli Aglio Olio.  The lasagna was rich, gooey and striated by fresh, perfectly cooked pasta.  The pumpkin flowers gave the dish bright highlights of orange amongst the cream and green of the zucchini.  It was earthy and full of good texture.  I could have eaten a whole pan of that stuff.  It was perfection.  The broccoli was simple, straightforward and equally tasty.  That’ll be a dish I’ll try at home very soon.

After all of this and a liter of wine, the caffeine edge was worn away leaving a blissed-out, pleasantly full, food-lover sitting across from a food bounty hunter on a mission.  Next stop, pizza.

Twist my arm.

Agriturismo La Colti – Cannigione, Sardegna

“Aw, crap.  I think I’m eating donkey.  Oh, well.  Who ever knew that donkey tastes so good?  Tastes nothing like chicken, though.”

I had this little conversation with myself during the umpteenth course at Agriturismo La Colti somewhere outside of Olbia, Sardegna on a warm spring night.  Mrs. NH had sought out another great restaurant and managed to program the Garmin nüvi to get us there.

Before that thought hit, we were served with course after course of good food.  We had artisan gnocchi (also called Gnochetti Sardi), gently fork-dimpled just enough to hold a generous coating of meat sauce.  The gnocchi was a firmer consistency than I was used to but Mrs. NH was happy to finish what I didn’t.  The other dish that stuck out was the puffy, pastry/lasagna-like dish.  It’s pictured at the top-left of this post so if you know what it is, let me know.  Topping that all off was a tender, fatty suckling pig (Porchetto Mirto) served on top of some myrtle branches.

But back to the burro.

So, there I was, in the middle of a freshly prepared, delicious, typical Sardegnian meal wondering if I was eating Eeyore.  Donkey is apparently a typical dish in those parts.  Luckily, I’ve eaten plenty of weird things in my life and the though of it didn’t bother me too much.  But it did get to the crux of my only beef (pun not intended) with the meal at La Colti.  There were some awesome dishes but as it was pre fixe, nothing was written down and when plates arrived I had little idea what most of them were.  The girl who slapped them on the table said what some of them were in rapid Italian but others she just placed on the table and ran off looking like she was about to go put out a fire on the roof.  Sure, I could tell there were tomatoes on the plate and I managed to catch the word for pork in the split second after she slammed the plate down and disappeared into thin air, but lots of other things just got devoured without knowing exactly what they were.

Also served were local wines in La Colti labeled bottles and a super-tasty jug of Mirto for dessert.  Those, I had no problem identifying.

That said, it was all good.  I’m afraid I’m just not in much of a position to tell you what all of it was.  But I did catch one word in particular.  “Pecora.”  It sounded like Pecorino so even the slightly mirto-dulled synapses in my head fired enough to register it.  And, I remembered the word until the next day, 99% sure it was Italian for Eeyore.  When I pulled the Italian dictionary from my backpack, I was relatively pleased at what I found.  Pecora – Sheep.  Huh.  Not baaaad.  Better yet, I can still record episodes of “My Friends Tigger and Pooh” for Little NH with a clear conscience.

Matricianella – Rome, Italy

Some day in the future, when I make bazillions on some great idea that I have in the middle of the night, I’m going to buy houses and apartments all over the world.  One of them will be in Rome and it will be just down the street from Matricianella.  Not because the neighborhood is any better than any other place in Rome, but because I know Mrs. NH will want to go there all the time.  At least if I have an apartment near it, it won’t take long to get there.  Not to mention the fact that I’d hate to miss a meal there.

Matricianella is nestled in a side street just down the way from the Spanish Steps and features a steady yet unobtrusive promenade of scooters and delivery vans just off its skinny front deck.  What happens on the other side of that deck, however, is the creation of some of the most delicious, classic, Roman food I have ever witnessed.  Mrs. NH discovered it in Food and Wine magazine about five years ago and we haven’t missed a stop there in any trip to Rome since.  Of course, that’s not always easy.

If you don’t speak Italian, good luck trying to get a reservation.  Mrs. NH tried twice.  As soon as she called and English words escaped her mouth, “Click.”  Both times.  Pshaw, I though.  She’s just not doing it right.  “Buon giorno! May I make a res…” “Click.”  So, we took our chances and walked over with Little NH hoping to score an open outside table for lunch on a weekday without a reservation.  The gods smiled upon us and we got a nice table outside.

After the reservation fiasco, I was a little worried that the previously friendly service had been replaced by some snooty staff that hated gringos with only a passing knowledge of Italian.  My fears were unfounded, thankfully.  Service was quick, courteous and even extra sweet to Little NH.  They’re pros at Matricianella.  No wonder they don’t take reservations in English over the phone.  It is Italy, after all.

The food is rustic, hearty and not at all fussy.  It’s just excellent and perfectly executed.  We started out with the fried ricotta and bresaola salad.  The fried ricotta was like eating little pillows of pure epicurean pleasure.  I had never had the dish before but I intend to never miss it on a menu again in my life.  The bresaola was elegant and perfect, served with a good slab of lemon, peppery arugula and savory chunks of parmesan.

For the main course, I had the Veal Saltimbocca and Mrs. NH had the Gnocchi alla Romana.  We ended up splitting the dishes and it was a great combo.   The Saltimbocca had a rich gravy and excellent cuts of meat.  Melt in mouth.  Mrs. NH’s pillowy pasta was amazingly rich and incredibly comforting.  Kind of like something mom would have made if she was Italian.  Just yum city.

That and a bottle of wine and we ended lunch as two happy patrons.  Little NH didn’t fare too poorly, either.  She had penne with tomato sauce and lots of grated parmesan and she, too was in a pretty big food coma by the end of lunch.

Topped off with a little biscotti and life-giving espresso, we were ready to tackle the afternoon in Rome.  It was the perfect Roman lunch.

Now, I can’t wait to get back there.  Say, maybe the next time we go, we’ll be apartment hunting…

Civita, Italy

There are a few places in the world that look like they belong in children’s story books.  Civita, Italy is one of them.  Perched on an eroding bluff in the middle of a wide open Italian canyon, Civita should be the model for every fantasy movie set ever.

Fortunately, it is real and you can visit it.  Just about 1 hour outside of Rome, it beckons you.  I’ve been there every time I’ve been to Rome.  It’s just that cool.

About 15 or so people live there.  The dusty streets are filled with beautiful, weathered stone buildings.  The long metal bridge that leads to the town gives you a great view of the countryside and leads you up a path, directly into the main gate of the city.

Once there, seek out the old, donkey-powered olive press.  Once inside the building, ask for some bruschetta with tomato and an order with cheese as well.  If it’s cool, sit inside and enjoy the smell of always-on fire or, if it’s sunny, sit in the courtyard and sip local wine with your snacks.

The more adventurous can seek out the path that circles the bluff and tunnels below the streets of this ancient town.

Whatever you do, bring your camera. Pictures manage to capture at least some of the beauty to take with you.  Or, if you’re really creative, you could use them to make your own story book.

Bottega Vini – Verona, Italy

We’re fairly unorthodox when it comes to parenting.  We think our kid should adapt to what we want to do.  Some would call that immature, others would realize that no parent, no matter how patient, ever wants to watch Barney.  So, this is our way of doing things.

On an early spring evening in Verona, Italy, Mrs. NH, Little NH and I headed to the Bottega Vini smack dab in the middle of Verona.  It was a beautiful restaurant/wine bar that came recommended on some web site or other that Mrs. NH found.  It was worth the trip.

There is no outdoor seating save for a banqet nestled into the outside wall but once inside, you’re transported to a really cool Northern Italian experience.  There’s vino alla spina (wine on tap), and a chalk board full of several other varieties, ranging from Soave to Barbera. The guys behind the bar were getting ready for the evening dinner crew but treated us well and even found a chocolate filled cookie in the kitchen for Little NH.

We spent our time trying two or three of the wines while Little NH was anticipating the chime of the cuckoo-clock overhead.  By the time our 30 minutes in Bottega Vini were up, great wine had been consumed and a little cuckoo-clock had chimed, delighting a 3-year-old.

In my book, that beats Barney any day.

Drinks of the World: Negroni and Aperol Spritz

When I go to Italy, I drink lots of wine.  I also drink my fair share of Peroni and Moretti beer.  But when it’s about 5:00 and I’m perched in an out-of-the-way square in some forgotten corner of town, nothing says “happy hour” like a Negroni.  Negroni is a mixture of equal parts sweet vermouth, Campari and gin.  Served on ice with an orange wedge, and maybe some lemon, it’s an awesome drink for a sunny Italian late-afternoon/early-evening.  Here it is usually served alongside a bowl of salty potato chips and maybe, if things are really going your way, some delicious olives.

When Mrs. NH goes to Italy, she also drinks vino and birra but loves, more than most anything, the cool, mellow flavor of an Aperol Spritz.  Served in a stemmed glass and of a lighter, bubblier, sweeter shade than the Negroni, it’s the perfect drink for all the ladies out there.  It’s a mix of Aperol (a bitters) and Prosecco.  It is also served with the orange wedge (blood orange in Sardegna) and is just a touch more elegant than the gin-sporting Negroni.

Now, I’m sure there are plenty of ladies out there that would say they like Negronis just as much or more than a Spritz – that’s fine.  Just telling you how it works in the NH house.

However, if you ever find yourself in a sunny, secluded corner of an Italian town on a warm Spring day, order a Negroni or an Aperol Spritz.  Don’t tell them NotHemingway sent you because I’m sure they don’t remember me.

Lightning Review: Kodak PlaySport

Right before we headed out to the beach, I saw a link on one of my favorite blogs, Instapundit, where there was a recommendation for the Kodak PlaySport video camera.  My 3-year-old Sanyo HD camera is a bit long in the tooth so I decided to take the “plunge” on this $250, waterproof marvel.  So far it has been a great little unit.  It is in my pocket everywhere I go, including the ocean.  At that price, I’m not bankrupt if something happens to it so I have taken a lot more videos.

The picture itself is clean and crisp (at least on the laptop I’m packing).  Compared to my older Sanyo, everything about it is faster.  That’s nice when trying to capture a little kid living it up in the ocean.  For a little example of the video quality, I’ve took a short video of today’s lunch.  Caution: Video of extreme relaxation below.  Do not watch from the office…

EDIT: Nope, there was a topless woman at the very tail end.  Seriously.  So I had to pull it from YouTube.  Sorry.  Maybe later.

The Italian Snob

Yes, Italy has a brand of candy called “Snob”.  Luckily, we’ve found the Italians to be mostly un-snobbish during our visit so far.  Well, with one slight exception.  We’re in the “upscale” part or Sardegna right now and the lady at the front desk gave Mrs. NH some guff about not registering the “3-year-old daughter” on her reservation.  Mrs. NH coyly replied, “They didn’t offer that on” Problem solved.  And in a satisfying, un-snobbish way.

Now, I’m sitting by the pool sipping a drink that is way too strong and will most certainly mean that Mrs. NH will be driving the winding island roads for dinner tonight.  She’s a champ and she knows it.

More Aperol fueled musings as time permits…

3 By Sea – In Sardegna

We’re a little over a week on the road today and part of that road was in the form of an overnight ferry from Rome to Sardegna.  The ferry ride was a new experience but nothing too wild after all was said and done.  The cabin was spacious and all three of us had a decent night’s sleep.

The time in Verona (pictured above),  Rome and the Amalfi Coast with family was a hoot.  We’ve been lucky to see the NH Grandparents in quite a few cool locales over the past 5-6 years and this time was no exception.  The food was great, the wine and lemoncello were excellent and the company was even better.

I expect to have a few more casual, non-road days coming up so be on the lookout for some new posts from this part of the world.


Pan con Tomate con Queso Manchego, Papas Arrugadas, Pimientos de Padrón

I’ve been down for the count with a killer cough ever since the planes stopped flying over a week ago.  So, when Mrs. NH threw out a menu idea for the tapas meal listed above, I was only halfway enthusiastic.  However, a couple days passed since she floated the idea and my appetite has returned (though the annoying cough lingers).  Good thing, too because the meal we made last night could stand side-by-side with the same dishes presented at any tapas joint in the world.  All except for the pimientos, that is.

We did an experiment the last time we had pimientos.  We had brought a couple baskets home fresh from the Boqueria in Barcelona and I had to head to Washington just a couple days after we returned home to Prague.  So, we ate 1/2 of them and froze the other 1/2.  In all honesty, they weren’t terrible after they were frozen – they were certainly edible.  But the signature melt-in-mouth goodness of fresh pimientos was replaced by a tougher, slightly bitter frozen cousin.  To the uninitiated, they probably would have been fine.  But when you’ve tasted them in their prime, the frozen version are a poor substitute.

Now, the papas arrugadas were a whole other matter.  They were perfect.  Mrs. NH actually managed to find some potatoes just the right size.  She made the green mojo and a red pepper mojo a few days ago and let them really develop their flavors in the fridge for a couple days.  They were amazing.  Yes, they were better than I have had in any restaurant in “La Latina.”  (Admittedly, I’ve never been to Gran Canaria.)   She used an ancho pepper for the red pepper sauce and the couple days of mellowing brought the flavor from spicy-oily to creamy-peppery.  It was perfect.  The green mojo was just as refreshing as any I have ever tasted with the garlic and cilantro moving in a culinary tango over the tongue.  Yum.

Finally, the pan con tomate was lovingly crafted by Mrs. NH as well.  The cool, slightly acidic flavor of the tomato puree worked as the perfect foil to the manchego that was drizzled with just a few drops of grassy Spanish olive oil.  Pan con tomate is one of the simplest dishes in the world but is also one of the most brilliant.  Every time I have it, I can’t help but exclaim something profound like, “Man!”

So yeah, it was a tasty Thursday night.  It was made all the better by the fact that I was not in a hotel, or on a train, or in a line for train tickets, or watching CNN International squawk on about ash clouds or airport closings.  Yep, on Thursday night in Casa NotHemingway, the peppers were as tough as it got.