Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cozyin' Up to Cairo

I have never attempted to squeeze fifty people in my living room at one time. I'm sure they would fit, although that alone doesn't make it a good idea. It might feel something like the show at Cairo last night. Being as Cairo is an art gallery by day, and its main room is smaller than my living room, this was no mean feat.

In light of the circumstances, everyone was generously accommodating, politely squeezing in between strangers on the large Persian rug. I was one of the lucky few who, after developing a numb posterior during the first set, was able to stand against the wall for the second and swap places with my friend Liz for an actual bench seat for the third. Below me a sea of heads stared raptly ahead as musicians from the bands Generifus, PWRFL Power, and Tiny Vipers played solo sets, close enough kick the front row in the nose without even leaving their chair.

The idea was a homey one: wouldn't you like to hear musicians in your living room? And with no bar, there was no drunken heckling to cause any distractions. I couldn't help thinking, however, that we all would have been a little bit more comfortable had we been in my living room, rather than theirs.

But the space did lend a kind of intimacy that is very different from the typical club, and the widely varying performances made for an enjoyable night out, particularly the simple, yet oddly affecting, lyrics of Kazutaka Nomura of PWRFL Power. Liz remarked how such shows were once common in Portland, and perhaps still are. Push some clothes racks aside in your shop, and you can move an all-ages show in just about anywhere. It's not a bad idea for those who really want to listen to the music. And last night's audience seemed happy to do just that.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Everybody Wants a Piece of Tadig

Everyone wants the tadig. As I was eating a bowl of Persian style rice with pistachios and dill for breakfast, Michael even blatantly stole two bites of tadig right out from under my nose! He claimed he hadn't been given his fair share in the rice he took to work last night. Forget arguing over who got the biggest piece of cake; I can easily see tadig leading to a family feud.

For the uninitiated, tadig is the buttery rice crust that forms on the bottom of the pan when cooking Persian rice. Eaten fresh and hot, it provides a satisfying, oh-so-buttery crunch, and the fact that you only get one measly layer of tadig from an entire pot of rice makes it a precious commodity indeed. I first tried this delicacy about a decade ago, when Leili, a good friend of my friend Ursa's, made some for some kind of party. Frankly, I don't remember what the party was for, but I do remember the tadig.

Being Iranian, Leili is an expert in this area. As a novice, I'm still figuring it out. Last night I managed to get a wonderful golden crust that coated more than half of the bottom of the pan, but I still end up with loose bits of crumbly, buttery rice in spots. Not that any kind of buttery rice is really worth complaining about, but they can't compare to the tadig. My method is taken from Gourmet magazine (and can be found online at wash the rice thoroughly, parboil it in salted water for five minutes, drain, then melt butter in the cleaned pan, layering rice and other ingredients (pistachios and dill in this case) on top. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke holes through the rice, allowing steam to escape and assist in the forming of a crust. To seal the pan well, wrap a dishtowel around the lid you use to cover the pan, then let the rice steam over low heat for half an hour or more. Another benefit to this recipe is the fantastic smells that will greet you when you remove the lid. If a crust hasn't formed, simply let it steam longer.

Of course, if you want to skip all these steps (although I do encourage you in that this is a simple technique; it just requires some patience), you can get your tadig, and other Persian delights, pre-made. Here in Lake City we're fortunate to have Pacific Market, a tiny hole in the wall selling Persian food supplies, including take away meals. They offer a fabulous saffron rice studded with sour bayberries served with tender chicken in a mild, yet rich, brick-red sauce. But if you want tadig, you have to ask. Last time, I was heartbroken to disccover once I arrived home that my request for tadig had been forgotten. I had two boxes of beautiful, jewel-toned bayberry rice, but no rustic pieces of the golden brown crust. Live and learn; next time I'm not getting away without my tadig!

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Best Laid Plans

Sometimes I really hate taking the bus.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if I leave work at 5:14, one would think that it would be reasonable to travel the twelve miles between Edmonds and Lake City and arrive home prior to 7:25, no? Sometimes, such expectations are apparently too high.

Fact: I typically leave work at 5:15 or 5:45, run to the bus stop, and wait for three to five minutes before the bus actually arrives. True, this may be because the bus runs late 99% of the time, but today, for the third time ever, I missed this bus, despite leaving work one minute earlier than usual. I ran down the street, only to see the bus turn the corner ahead of me. Breaking into my closest approximation of a sprint did no good; I could see the 131 shrinking in my field of vision as it drove away, leaving downtown Edmonds, and me, far behind.

Fact: This is Murphy's Law of Buses. I had plans, you see. BIG plans, grandiose plans for a night of unbelievable, unprecedented - well, OK, I just had plans to go downtown with Michael for a movie followed by a late night happy hour dinner at Boka. In the scheme of things, this is not exactly earth-shattering. And besides, I only had half an hour to wait for the next bus. I should still be home by 6:45, just in time to peel Michael out of bed, get him to slap on some clothes, and head out the door. I made the later bus, and everything seemed like smooth sailing when I caught the 331 at the Aurora Village transit center, heading for Lake Forest Park and my third and final bus of the day.

Fact: OK, this is really Murphy's Law of Buses. When you have someplace to be and are running late, or perhaps just barely on time, you will miss your bus. The next bus, the law continues, will be late. And in the meantime, you will be driven absolutely, bats-all-up-in-the-belfry, bees-busting-out-of-your-bonnet insane. Because wouldn't you just know it? Already half an hour late and, what's more, apparently the 375 isn't running because it's one of the only buses in town that appears to be operating on holiday schedule for Presidents' Day, and you somehow missed that 522 in Lake Forest Park, and now you're standing alone at the bus stop where the light doesn't work simply pleading, praying, and swearing that a bus had better come now... or maybe now... or, some day, right? A bus is going to come? Pretty please?

But ultimately, that's life. So we didn't get to go out tonight, after all. I'm sure Michael benefited from the extra sleep anyway, and I found that leftover Thai curry that I'd made last week in the fridge and managed a decent meal out of it.

And Earl Grey tea really does have a wonderful soothing effect. Maybe I should try bringing a thermos full along on my next commute.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Be Mine

I can't say I've ever put much stock in Valentine's Day, as far as holidays go. I don't expect a dozen roses, I'd rather go out for a nice dinner on a leisurely weeknight, and I certainly don't want jewelry. But it's nice, I admit, to have an excuse to spend the day with my husband with no purpose in mind other than simply spending the day together.

And what could be better than starting the day with brunch at home? After a trip down the street to Fred Meyer to purchase eggs and whipped cream (in the can - Michael makes no bones about the fact that he prefers his light and fluffy and aerosol pumped), I set about making chocolate chip pancakes to the bossa nova beat of Getz and Gilberto. The secret to truly delicious pancakes? Yogurt, baking soda, and club soda. You can find the recipe, for "blueberry pancakes", online at Saveur's website, I simply substituted chocolate chips for the berries, seeing as this is mid-winter. Malio sparkling peach juice was the perfect accompaniment.

In the afternoon we headed out to Green Lake to walk the pooch, who, despite her inherent fear of the car (she spends most of her time on the backseat with haunches taut, staring despondently down at her blanket), is not completely oblivious, and as soon as we had parked her ears perked up with recognition. Lucy loves Green Lake, although she'd love it even more if we actually let her dive into the water after the ducks.

And since we were practically in the neighborhood, why not stop at Molly Moon's? Nothing says love like salted caramel and chili chocolate ice cream topped with hot fudge when it's 45 degrees outside. Michael would appear to agree.

Our last stop before heading home was Bottleworks, where we were thrilled to find our favorite Belgian tripel, Karmeliet, on hand, after Whole Foods Beer Guy informed us a few weeks ago that there is at present no distribution for this beer in the U.S. Luckily Bottleworks still has some on hand - hie ye hence! And what better to accompany a good beer than a great pizza? Back at home that night, we pulled out the hidabed and shared a Pagliacci pizza, ingeniously navigating to keep Lucy away from our prized slices of cheesy goodness, then settled in for a movie with the dog passed out possessively across our laps. I couldn't have asked for a better Valentine.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rock for a Reason

In keeping with the recent musical theme of this blog, I went to a concert tonight. Far from being your typical rock show, this one took place in a house - an enormous house focused on community living, but a house nonetheless - in Edmonds called Rosewood Manor, and this band had a mission.

In short: there are an estimated 27+ million slaves worldwide, half of whom are children, and many of whom are employed in illegal sex traffikking. This is a figure that demands revulsion, and, more than that, demands action. The band Jubilee has decided to take action by bringing attention to this issue every time they play, and by donating half of their album sales to the International Justice Mission, an organization which aims to bring people out of slavery and provide them with the care they need to move on to a better life.

So perhaps tonight's house party wasn't what you might expect. You usually don't hear a plea for monetary support for social justice, and, going beyond the dollars, a plea to use whatever resources we may have to combat this issue. After all, Jubilee is just a group of guys with guitars and some drums. And so here I am, a girl with a blog. It's not much, but I wanted to share what I've learned with anyone who might be reading this.

If you are interested in learning more about the International Justice Mission, please see their website at:

And if you're in Seattle and interested in a rock concert for a cause, Jubilee is playing at Neumos on Monday, March 9th.

It may seem like such a small effort, but I pray it will make a difference, that somewhere on this earth someone will gain new life through these actions. Seek justice, protect the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Back at the Organ Again

For the past five days I have spent at least one hour each day practicing the organ. This is an unprecedented accomplishment since - well, possibly since high school. While I did play the organ weekly throughout college, I doubt that there were many, if any, times where I actually managed to practice five days in a row (I'm sure this bit of information would make my organ professor cringe at the memory). To be honest, there simply wasn't time; such dedication is a luxury few college students other than music majors can afford.

Now, however, I've grown accustomed to a life where "organist" is no longer part of my identity. Whereas I sometimes thought that few people within the world of my small hometown knew me as anything but the unofficial town accompanist, now it seems that few people I know in Seattle even recall that I know how to play an instrument at all. But thankfully my friend Leena remembered, and the result is that I'll be playing for a wedding this Valentine's Day.

And, I must admit, I'm excited. Very much so. It feels good to slide onto the organ bench and feel the pedals beneath my feet. And when it comes to pulling out all the stops, there's nothing like trilling through Widor's magnificent Toccata to get a musical high. Why don't I do this more often?

Of course, I know the answer: it isn't convenient, and, when other responsibilities or simply the desire to curl up on the sofa at home call, it becomes a chore rather than a joy. But I don't want this to be the end; I am still a musician, I realize. It's too deep in my history to just disappear, even through the quiet years.

So perhaps I should put myself out there again as a substitute organist, and perhaps there will be other weddings in the future. But for now I'll focus on this one - the rehearsal is tomorrow night, and I plan to be ready!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sounds Like Seattle

"Seattle has one of the best live music scenes," claimed my friend Kristina.

"Really?" I asked. We were sitting at the High Dive, having just listened to a set by the band Ivan and Alyosha, a band that neither of us had even heard of before Thursday, but one we both found so enjoyable that we couldn't resist the CDs they were selling for five bucks apiece.

"Well, maybe not like New York, but..."

"How about L.A.?"

"I don't think L.A. can compare with Seattle."

I sipped my beer thoughtfully (if that's possible). To be honest, I really don't know if that's an accurate assessment or not, and those who are still mourning the loss of Seattle's indie music rag, The Rocket (despite the fact it departed almost ten years ago) may disagree. But just thinking about it made me feel pretty lucky to be sitting right where I was, listening to bands no one's ever heard of, but are nonetheless pretty darn good. I've been to a grand total of one live music show in L.A., and while the bands there were also unknowns, they actually deserved to stay that way. Not that this one experience is in any way indicative of the L.A. music scene, but it seemed to lend some credence to Kristina's assertion.

Unfortunately, I haven't always taken good advantage of what Seattle has to offer. This past week was an exception, as I made it to two shows in the span of seven days, the first one being the Supreme Beings of Leisure at Chop Suey this past Saturday. That night I was happy to groove to familiar songs, but there's a certain thrill that comes when taking a chance on something unfamiliar and being rewarded with great music. It's something I'd like to experience more often. And in Seattle, apparentely, I have plenty of opportunities.

A Winter Evening at Gasworks Park: A Photo Series with Accompanying Haiku

Houses by water
Sparkle in the evening sun
Gasworks glows golden

Microphones above
From below we wonder what
On earth it's about

Sailing peacefully
Oh, where do you go from here?
I'd follow gladly

Branches are barren
Much like the former foundry
Still beauty is there

Is it truly hard
To look in my direction
For a photograph?

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Joule of Wallingford

There is a tiny restaurant in Wallingford that goes by the name of Joule. On winter Sundays, they dispense with their everyday menu and offer up a theme dinner for the bargain price of $20 per person. Add to this the fact that they also offer house wine for only $4 a glass and, well, this is a deal that's hard to beat in this city.

But what's really hard to beat is the story of how Michael, Liz, and I finally made it to our dinner reservation there last night.

It started out simply enough. Michael and I motored our way down Lake City Way, heading onto Roosevelt on our way to Liz's place.

"Aren't you going to turn here?" Michael asked innocently when I drove past the Roosevelt Safeway.

"No, Liz told me this morning her house is on 70th, I'll turn there." I had, in fact, dropped Liz off at her place before, but it had been awhile, it had been after dark, and I'd never bothered to remember which street it was on anyway. Momentarily I pulled up across from a house on 70th. Michael hesitated.

"This isn't right," he told me.

"Well, this is what she told me. Come on, get out of the car, and go see if she's there." Honestly, it didn't look right to me either, but I was positive Liz had said 70th... that morning after church, with the fellowship hall full of the clamor of post-service chat.... and I was talking with that new guy... he was standing between us... OK, OK, this sounded bad, but I had repeated it back to her, and had gotten confirmation in the affirmative; this had to be right.

Michael was still unconvinced. We were running late by now, and I impatiently urged him to get into the car while I checked. I lightly ran up the steps of the craftsman on the corner and peeked through the window, only to find a living room that looked very much like an actual living room, complete with mission style furnishings and lovely artwork. In short, it looked nothing like the rental house where Liz lived with seven guys would actually look. I ran across the street, trying to get my bearings. All the houses looked like perfect mini-craftsmens, the kind where middle-class urban families settle when they decide to have children, or at least a family dog. Something was wrong.

It was then that I realized something was more than wrong, something was downright sinister. Michael, and the car, were gone.

OK, Ruth Ann, don't panic. Think, think.

My first thought was to run down the street screaming, "Liz!" I even tried that once or twice, then realized I should be thankful that everyone was probably watching the Superbowl and therefore unable to hear me make a fool of myself. Then, it came to me. 70th Street sounds an awful lot like 75th street, when you think about it... could it be?

I spun on a dime and started running uphill towards 75th. I didn't even pause when I passed the man lugging his Christmas tree as he trudged up the sidewalk; this whole experience was turning surreal. Who takes out their Christmas tree in February? And why carry it for five blocks? I had no time to ask such questions, however; I was almost there.

Liz, however, was not there at all. Three of the guys, all wearing hoodies, answered the door about a minute after I rang. "Someone was coming to give her a ride," one of them offered.

"Yes," I responded, "That would be be me."

Dejectedly, I stood on the sidewalk in my shirtsleeves, warm from my recent run. Surely, I thought, Michael must have realized where Liz was and come to pick her up, and surely he would come back to find me - although, having been left stranded once already at 70th, I wasn't feeling particularly optimistic.

Then, just as I was pondering whether to wait or head back down the hill, our little Vibe pulled up to the traffic light. Michael and Liz were both inside. We made it to our reservation (thankfully John, the other member of our party, had had the good sense to arrive on time), and sat down to a lovely meal. Hot duck noodle soup, ginger roasted carrots, and chicken rolled and stuffed with sticky rice, gingko nuts, and dates were just some of the delightful dishes included in our prix-fixe meal.

At the end of the evening, we stirred sponnfuls of honey studded with finely shredded quince into hot water to create a soothing tea. The theme for the evening's supper had been "Cure for the Common Cold", and each ingredient was purported to have specific health benefits. I'm not sure if dates really have a "calming effect", but we all felt relaxed as the meal drew to a close.

I look forward to another winter supper at Joule soon, but next time I don't plan on running up any hills to work up an appetite.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Food of the Gods

When you think of Seattle, what comes to mind?
a) the Space Needle
b) grunge
c) Bill Gates
d) chocolate!

There are no right answers here, but there is a better answer, and if you chose d) chocolate, congratulations! You have very good taste.

Seattle is home to the only certified organic and fair trade chocolate maker (not to be confused with chocolate melters, which are the many companies that buy partially processed chocolate and melt it to create their own confections) in the United States. And luckily for us who live here, they offer tours. For the bargain price of $6 you get an entertaining, informative look at their factory in Fremont, and as many chocolate samples as your heart desires. Is there a better way to spend an afternoon? My friend Rebecca, for whom this tour was a dream come true, would doubtlessly respond to that question with a firm, "No!" And far be it from me to argue.

Stephanie, Rebecca, and I took our first tour of Theo (I say first because I'm sure I'll be back) yesterday afternoon. While the factory shop stocks plenty of samples and is well worth visiting on its own, the tour brought chocolate to life. Our guide was a young, chipper employee, happy to share her company's mission of bringing delicious, sustainable, and socially responsible chocolate to the world, and able to answer every questions her audience threw her. As a guide myself, albeit in a far different capacity, I was impressed.

But the best part, of course, is the chocolate - the food of the gods, as the botanical name for the cocoa plant implies. We tried dark chocolates from Ghana or the Ivory Coast, milk chocolate flavored with chai tea, chipotle spice truffles, freshly roasted cocoa nibs, dark chocolate with orange, and much, much more. And since Theo chocolates do not come cheap - quite understandably so after you've taken the tour and learned the difference between their products and methods and those of the mass market - this feels like the best gourmet deal in Seattle.

One taste, and any chocolate lover is sure to agree.