Recent Interests, Obsessions, and Excursions

It’s that time of year when a lone soul like me is just a little depressed that football season isn’t going to be around for about another year, and therefore I just have to do SOMETHING with the time I’d usually spend in front of a TV or inside a rock’n stadium. With that in mind, I have been enjoying the following:

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Caribou Coffee is no doubt my personal favorite caffeinated sipping java on the regular commercial market today. Much more complex and aromatic than the Bux, I find it entices the palette in the morning and calms the soul in the evening. “Mahogany” – one of the more recent offerings by Caribou – is very dark with a thick syrupy platform. I have found, however, that if you grind this bean too finely it becomes a little too biting. Set your grinder on “pencil shavings” level, dump it in any standard filter, and let Mr. Coffee work the magic. You won’t be disappointed. I can drink this roast all day sans creamer or sugar.

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When Cigar Aficionado rated this cigar as their top pick for 2008, I found it a bit hard to believe, especially considering its price tag. No matter what size you pick out of this Colorado line,  you can get it for a Hamilton and still receive some substantial coin back. Aficionado recommended the rubosto, but being a figurado nut, I purchase (with a bit of skepticism) a pair of the belicoso’s. What a surprise! They had respectable construction, passable draw, even burn, full flavor (hints of fruits, nuts, and honey) and a long finish. Those wanting a budget friendly Nicaraguan puro have yet another attractive option to choose. Look for the oily, chocolate colored wrappers and medium ring sizes. I hope you’re as pleased as I with such an affordable smoke.

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The Sleep Number bed system is either the greatest thing since sliced bread or the biggest gimmick of an inflatable camper pad and is available at your local jumbo sized American Mall. My dear mother and father-in-law were kind enough to purchase this whimsical mattress adventure for my fiance and me. The most exciting part of the Number Bed is “discovering” your own “sleep number”. I have found that my own personal number ranges between sofa cushion and pile-of-bathroom towels, while my fiance’s number lies somewhere more between water bed and deflated weather balloon.

In truth this product isn’t so bad at all, and I have yet to experience any aches or pains whatsoever. However, I will warn that the bed firmness air adjustment system – when turned on, say in the middle of the night – best resembles the revving jet engine of an F14 Tomcat and may elicit vocalized dissatisfaction from a spouse or slumbering neighbor.

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It’s that time again! Living in the wonderful state of Maryland, one cannot embark on any culinary escapade without breaching the subject of crabs. Well thanks to the promise of many sunny warm days ahead, one can finally enjoy Maryland’s most famous seafood delicacy. I am particularly fond of the “soft shell” crabs which best resemble giant panko breaded spiders served either alone with a wedge of lemon and tartar sauce, or betwixt two toasted poppy seed buns. Don’t shy away from the image, as their flavor is usually very good.

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Lately, my fiance and I have been frequenting a small hole-in-the-wall joint that serves a Saigon favorite: traditional Vietnamese Pho. All too often do the uneducated associate Vietnamese cuisine with Chinese generics such as orange chicken or Korean Bulgogi. In reality Vietnamese flavors are just as often an infusion of southeast island contributions and French colonial inspirations.

I find that Pho is a perfect blend of simple and healthy. It starts out with a very mild and refreshing broth and thin noodle called vermicelli (other kinds of noodle such as udon can be used as well). From there, a host of garnishes can be added to one’s personal choosing such as vegetables (bean sprouts, basil, chilies, cilantro, and onions), and meats (anywhere from thin sliced beef brisket and shrimp to chicken hearts, liver, and tripe). The dish is made fresh, light, and simple which means it’s surprisingly healthy, very flavorful without being too  rich or saturating, and can be had at an affordable price.

This is good for those special asians who can’t spend a lot of cabbage, but still crave that taste of the Orient.

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Speaking of Asian! One cannot fully appreciate Chinese culture without gaining at least a minimal knowledge of the wonderful world of tea. My latest tea infusing obsession is of the very interesting “8 Treasures” tea, specifically named for its 8 massively floral ingredients that contribute to one complex cup of heaven.

The treasures include (and are apparently limited to) the following: Chrysanthemum, Organic Green, honeysuckle, sterculiae, Scaphigerae, Red Date, Haw, Dried Tangerine, and Rock sugar.

Just in case you aren’t counting, I believe that is 9 ingredients but that’s how they roll in China apparently. Maybe the rock sugar isn’t an official treasure.

Regardless! The effect of pouring this concoction in the pot and adding piping hot water (just under boiling) is that of watching an incredibly colorful botanical garden blossom right before your eyes.

Neat huh? You almost don’t want to even drink it… maybe because at any minute you believe a host of grasshoppers and crickets and asian monkeys will also spring up magically inside the pot. Trust me this won’t happen. Maybe what WILL happen is a peach boy will spring up and conquer the village monster and with his tears form the islands of the Rising Sun known in commercial circles as Japan.

It’s because Asians are awesome.

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Cute eh? Not to overdo the whole asian thing, but Pugs actually originated in China. During what is known as the Shang Dynasty, East Chinese sovereigns looked across the pond to Japan’s dashing Akita breeds (literally translated “freak’n awesome canine”) and longed for a cute and cuddly lap dog. After much debate and consulting the first draft of the little red book, Chinese royalty crossed a domestic Mongolian badger with an ancient prehistoric hamster and the pug breed was born.

My latest frolics to the great beyond have been accompanied by my fiance’s pug fittingly named Pugsy James Creason (yes, he has a middle name). I am convinced that Pugs mostly consist of rolled up dog skin and saliva, and that if you were to stretch them out, they could span the length of 2.5 football fields. Pugsy literally spends 94.37% of his time sneezing on me which my fiance swears is a sign of affection and love. He also always seems perpetually short winded, and I believe his breathing patterns could make even Darth Vadar light headed.

Pugsy James and his most recent antics of eating absolutely everything plastic is the reason why I have seriously considered going to the nearest Toys R Us and buying a jumbo water balloon sling shot launcher for the sole purpose of making small lap dogs fly.

We’ll see where that goes.

And now it is time for a moment of repose:

I was at the Smithsonian American History museum and after seeing America’s most beloved American flag, I had to ask myself, ” Where was I when the rest of history class learned that the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner is just one extra large rhetorical question?”

Anyway…

What’s on the coffee table?

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3 Responses to “Recent Interests, Obsessions, and Excursions”

  1. […] Recent Interests, Obsessions, and Excursions « Of Cookies & Monsters […]

  2. Got to love those floral teas with the blossoms. Where do you find them? I can’t seem to find them even at asian markets here.

    Little known fact: the chinese invented pugs as a tasty delicacy to feed the dragons at new year. But the dragons didn’t care for them…too slimy, apparently.

  3. I recently got some 8 Treasures from this place called Ten Ren… which is somehow advertised as a chain Taiwanese eatery. It’s not top notch cuisine (one of the items on the menu is literally “instant Smack ramen with broth”), but they have a pretty awesome loose leave tea selection.

    The 8 Treasures I bought there come in small individual packets that you open and dump in your choice teapot.

    http://www.tenren.com/eigtreastea.html

    It’s pretty cool really.

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