Grillo Center Labyrinth

Grillo Center Labyrinth
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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Saturday Morning Walkers - July 27, 2008

Hi Everyone!

Jack and I spent a lovely weekend in Steamboat Springs and I, unfortunately, missed our Saturday morning walk again. Hope you all had a lovely downtown walk and breakfast at the Farmer’s Market. The main feature of our weekend was the Strings Music Festival – we went to “A Night in Vienna” concert on Saturday night. During the day on Saturday, we took the gondola up to the top of the mountain, walked around a bit and enjoyed burgers and hot dogs off the grill. After a quick and casual dinner at the Steamboat Smokehouse (not great) and before heading over to the concert, we poked around town a bit - checked out the new location of the Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. They are co-sponsor's of the Literary Sojourn along with the Bud Werner Public Library.

Book Report:
I neglected to mention another book that I had finished last week – The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer. This is beautifully written book by another of our Literary Sojourn authors. There was a quality to this book that was quite reminiscent to me of Elizabeth Strout’s, Olive Kitteridge. I’m looking forward to hearing from each of these authors at the Sojourn in September.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. As he demonstrated in the imaginative The Confessions of Max Tivoli, Greer can spin a touching narrative based on an intriguing premise. Even a diligent reader will be surprised by the revelations twisting through this novel and will probably turn back to the beginning pages to find the oblique hints hidden in Greer's crystalline prose. In San Francisco in 1953, narrator Pearlie relates the circumstances of her marriage to Holland Cook, her childhood sweetheart. Pearlie's sacrifices for Holland begin when they are teenagers and continue when the two reunite a few years later, marry and have an adored son. The reappearance in Holland's life of his former boss and lover, Buzz Drumer, propels them into a triangular relationship of agonizing decisions. Greer expertly uses his setting as historical and cultural counterpoint to a story that hinges on racial and sexual issues and a climate of fear and repression. Though some readers may find it overly sentimental, this is a sensitive exploration of the secrets hidden even in intimate relationships, a poignant account of people helpless in the throes of passion and an affirmation of the strength of the human spirit.

Rae has a book to recommend – The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander – Rae found it to be a “difficult” read , meaning an emotional read but really liked the book.

From Publishers Weekly
[Signature]Reviewed by Allegra Goodman. Young writers are often told to write about what they know. In his 1999 collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, Nathan Englander spun the material of his orthodox Jewish background into marvelous fiction. But the real trick to writing about what you know is to make sure you know more as you mature. Englander's first novel, The Ministry of Special Cases, conjures a world far removed from "The Gilgul of Second Avenue." The novel is set in 1976 in Buenos Aires during Argentina's "dirty war." Kaddish Poznan, hijo de puta, son of a whore, earns a meager living defacing gravestones of Jewish whores and pimps whose more respectable children want to erase their immigrant parents' names and forget their shameful activities. Kaddish labors in the Jewish cemetery at night. His hardworking wife, Lillian, toils in an insurance agency by day, and their idealistic son, Pato, attends college, goes to concerts and smokes pot with his friends. When Pato is taken from home, Kaddish learns what it really means to erase identity, because no one in authority will admit Pato has been arrested. No one will even acknowledge that Pato existed. As Lillian and Kaddish attempt to penetrate the Ministry of Special Cases, Englander's novel takes on an epic quality in which Jewish parents descend into the underworld and journey through circles of hell. Gogol, I.B. Singer and Orwell all come to mind, but Englander's book is unique in its layering of Jewish tradition and totalitarian obliteration. At times Englander's motifs seem forced. Kaddish, whose very name evokes the memory of the dead, chisels out the name of a plastic surgeon's disreputable father, and in lieu of cash receives nose jobs for himself and his wife. Lillian's nose job is at first unsuccessful, and her nose slides off her face. One form of defacement pays for another. Kaddish fights with his son in the cemetery and accidentally slices off the tip of Pato's finger. Attempting to erase a letter, Kaddish blights a digit. But the fight seems staged, Pato's presence unwarranted except for Englander's schema. Other scenes are haunting: Lillian confronting bureaucrats; Kaddish appealing to a rabbi to learn if it is possible for a Jew to have a funeral without a body; Kaddish picking an embarrassing embroidered name off the velvet curtain in front of the ark in the synagogue. When he picks off the gold thread, the name stands out even more prominently because the velvet underneath the embroidery is unfaded, darker than the rest of the fabric. Englander writes with increasing power and authority in the second half of his book; he probes deeper and deeper, looking at what absence means, reading the shadow letters on history's curtain.

I am in the middle of a book that Rae had recommended to me a while ago and I am totally engrossed - I will tell you more about Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos next week.

As an update, our A New Earth study group is moving on to Chapter 6 this coming week. What a terrific experience it has been to work through this book chapter by chapter with this wonderful group of women.

Jack is just about finished with the Pete Hamill memoir, A Drinking Life. Hamill is one of our favorite writers and he is such a New York "legend".

From Publishers Weekly
Hamill's autobiography entails his long odyssey to sobriety. This is not a jeremiad condemning drink, however, but a thoughtful, funny, street-smart reflection on its consequences. To understand Hamill ( Loving Women ), one must know his immigrant parents: Anne, gentle and fair; Billy, one-legged and alcoholic. The first offspring of this union--Republicans in Belfast, Democrats in Brooklyn--Hamill has a special gift for relating the events of his childhood. He recreates a time extinct, a Brooklyn of trolley cars, Dodgers, pails of beer and pals like No Toes Nocera. He recalls such adventures as the Dodgers' 1941 pennant and viewing the liner Normandie lying on its side in the Hudson River. We partake in the glory of V-J day and learn what life in Hamill's neighborhood was centered on: "Part of being a man was to drink." Puberty hits him and booze helps him to overcome his sexual shyness. But Hamill's childhood ended early. After dropping out of high school he lived on his own, working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and drinking with his workmates. Wanting more, he studied art, soon meeting a nude model named Laura who was a lot different from the neighborhood girls, those "noble defenders of the holy hymen." And escape was always on Hamill's mind. First it was the Navy, then Mexico, but it was always the same--drinking nights which today he can't remember. There were fist-fights and jail time in Mexico and he learned that "drinking could be a huge fuck you to Authority." Back home with a job at the New York Post , he mastered his trade at the Page One bar every morning, drinking with other reporters. Much time was spent in saloons away from his wife and two daughters and he remembers the taunts of his childhood, "Your old man's an Irish drunk!" Then one New Year's Eve 20 years ago he noticed all the drunkenness and had his last vodka. When asked why, he said, "I have no talent for it." It may be the only talent Hamill lacks.

Website of the Week: – a great site for basic cooking techniques

Podcast of the Week: – “Inspired talks by the world's greatest thinkers and doers” – you can subscribe to this on Itunes but it is a great site and you can always listen to the talks right on your computer.

Vocabulary Word of the Week: Burrata – this was on our salad last night!

From Wikipedia:

Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream, giving it a unique soft texture. It is usually served fresh, at room temperature. Burrata, once only packaged in leaves, is nowadays wrapped in a plastic sheet, sometimes printed with a leaves pattern on the outside. Even so, the tradition of having a wrapper of asphodel leaves (leeks) is still followed, even if only covering outside the plastic. The leaves are indicators of the freshness of the Burrata; as long as the leaves are green, the cheese within is still fresh and ready to ooze out. The name "burrata" means "buttered" in Italian.


As with other mozzarellas, Burrata owes its existence to the water buffalo, a large beast that was brought to Italy from its native Asia sometime in the 1400s. Water buffalo milk is richer and higher in protein than that of cows, yielding 1.6 times more cheese. It also lacks the yellow pigment carotene found in cow’s milk, so mozzarella di bufala is pure white. Although mozzarella was originally made with the milk of water buffaloes, and the best still is (in Italy, the legal name for cow’s-milk "mozzarella," is fior di latte), almost all American mozzarella is made from cow’s milk.

Burrata originated from a small area of Apulia region, called Murgia. First produced around 1920 on the Bianchini farm[citation needed] in the town of Andria, (about 2/3 of the way up from Italy's heel to the spur of Apulia). In the 1950s, it became more widely available after a few of the local cheese factories - notably Chieppa[citation needed] - began producing it. It is generally suspected that factories were interested in it because it was a way to utilize the ritagli ("scraps" or "rags") of mozzarella. Established as an artisanal cheese, Burrata maintained its premium-product status even after it began to be made in a number of factories from Andria, Bari, Gioia del Colle, Modugno, all the way to Martina Franca, an eighty-mile stretch of Puglia. Notably, only in recent years has it traveled outside of its native Apulia.


Burrata starts out much like mozzarella, which begins like other cheeses, with rennet used to curdle the warm milk. But then, unlike other cheeses, fresh mozzarella curds are plunged into hot whey or lightly salted water, kneaded and pulled to develop the familiar stretchy strings (pasta filata), then shaped in whatever form is desired.

When making Burrata, the still-hot cheese is formed into a pouch, which is then filled with scraps of leftover mozzarella and topped off with fresh cream (panna) before closing. The finished Burrata is traditionally wrapped in the leaves of asphodel (leeks) tied to form a little brioche-like topknot, and moistened with a little whey. For convenience, these days the cheese is often placed in polyethylene, a plastic bag. The asphodel leaves, if present in packaging, should still be green when the cheese is served, to indicate the cheese’s freshness.

Serving indications

When the Burrata is sliced open, its ritagli-thickened panna flows out. The cheese has a rich, buttery flavor, and retains its fresh milkiness. It is best when eaten within 24 hours, and is considered past its prime after 48 hours. This cheese, due to its particular form (once opened, it must be eaten immediately) and the particularity given by the different texture of the inside and outside, can be served with salad, Prosciutto crudo, hard crusted bread, or with fresh tomato, olive oil and cracked black pepper. It may also be enjoyed tossed on top of drained penne or spaghetti.

Cooking and Dining Report:
I did do some cooking this past week but the highlight of this week was our dinner out on Friday night in Steamboat. We ate at CafĂ© Diva which I wrote about after last year’s book group trip to the Literary Sojourn. It is a very nice restaurant located right at the foot of the ski slope in Steamboat. The menu changes seasonally and offers some very unique dishes. Jack and I shared a salad featuring burrata cheese and arugula with olives and cherry tomato halves. Jack had Elk Tenderloin which he liked very much and I had Cornmeal Crusted Soft-Shell Crabs on a Sweet Potato Cake and served with corn and jalapeno relish – very yummy! Jack had a Colorado Peach Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert. Check out their menu -

We ended up having breakfast on Saturday and Sunday at Winona's in downtown Steamboat - right on Lincoln Ave - really terrrific little place that offers breakfast and lunch only. We tried to go to Lucile's in Steamboat this morning but apparently it has closed its location there. I think they were too far off the beaten path.

Some recipes that worked out well this week:

From Fine Cooking - Steamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and Parsley - one of our favorites and this is a great version -

From Fine Cooking - Pancetta, Tomato & Avocado Sandwich with Aioli - a nice summer dinner -

From Fine Cooking - Argentine Spice-Rubbed Steak with Salsa Criolla - another great flank steak recipe -

Judy also shared a couple of Fine Cooking recipes that she and Joe really liked - they both look yummy!:

Summer Vegetable Soup with Dill -

Grilled Chicken with Balsamic Apricot Glaze
Serves six to eight.


2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/2 cup apricot preserves
3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Kosher salt
Vegetable oil for the grill
Two 4-lb. chickens, each cut into 8 pieces, or 5 to 6 lb. good-quality bone-in skin-on chicken thighs, drumsticks, and breasts, each breast half cut into two pieces
Freshly ground black pepper

How to make: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the preserves, vinegar, red pepper flakes, rosemary, and a large pinch of salt; stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. (If making ahead, store covered in the refrigerator. Before using, warm over low heat to loosen the consistency.)

Prepare a medium gas or charcoal grill fire. Using a stiff wire brush, scrub the cooking grate thoroughly. Dip a folded paper towel into vegetable oil and, using tongs, rub it over the grill grate.

Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Set the parts skin side down on the grill. Cook, covered, until the skin is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stay near the grill, especially during the first 10 minutes, to manage any flare-ups, by moving pieces out of the way. If the chicken is browning too quickly, turn the heat down slightly or close the vents partially. Flip the chicken and cook until an instant-read thermometer reads 165°F in the thickest part of each piece, 5 to 10 minutes more. The thighs, legs, and thinner breast pieces are apt to cook a little faster than the thicker breast pieces. Transfer each piece to a platter when done and tent with foil.

When all the chicken is done, brush it with the glaze on all sides. Return the chicken to the grill and cook for another minute or so on each side to caramelize the glaze. Brush the chicken with any remaining glaze and serve.

Make Ahead Tips

The apricot glaze can be made up to a day ahead and stored covered in the refrigerator. Before using, warm over low heat to loosen the consistency.

That's all for now - have a wonderful week!



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