A finicky guy's exploits in finding gustatory (and other) satisfaction in his kitchen, his neighborhood, and beyond.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Kitcheree & Picture-me Updates

Thursday night we learned of another benefit of kitcheree — it stretches take-out Indian farther!  To make a very filling dinner, I ordered just one vegetarian dish and an onion kulcha (bread) from our favorite South Indian restaurant, and served them with reheated kitcheree and some spicy pickle.  A very satisfying way to round off a busy teaching day.  There's still enough kitcheree in the fridge for another meal over the weekend, I think.  Perhaps I'll serve it along with a tomatoey chicken stew that's simmering in my brain, if not yet on my stovetop.  I'm thinking tons of onions and garlic — and saffron and sausage — I seem to be in a Cajun state of mind.  Come back in a day or so to find out what became of my Amish chicken legs....

Earlier on Thursday, our mailman had delivered a care package from Debbie, who reads Peter's and my blogs regularly.  This box contained treats for the dogs — note to self: an entire chicken-leg treat in one sitting engenders copious poop in a tiny chihuahua — some wonderful natural grooming products, and — ta da! — the gorgeous shirt that Debbie has been working on for me as part of Peter's mens shirt sew-along:

I chose the fabric myself several weeks ago, and I couldn't be happier with how the shirt turned out.  Not to mention the fastidious attention to detail in Debbie's sewing and packing.  Don't you love how she pinned and papered the collar, just as they do in fancy clothing shops?  Not pictured is the glittered tissue paper the shirt came wrapped in.  Debbie seems to take great pride in every tiny aspect of her work, which is something you rarely see these days (outside of certain venues like MPB), and something that I value highly.  Take a look at the personalized embroidery she added inside the collar:

If your computer screen is too small to make out the words, it says: HANKO * NYC * 2011
The topstitching and buttons are masterfully done and in a perfect shade to complement the gingham.  I couldn't wait to press the shirt; I just had to rip it open and try it on right away:

Try to ignore those Ken dolls in the background, trying desperately to upstage me.  But even in their new mod get-ups, they're no match for me in the Debbie shirt.
I think Peter and Debbie consulted through email and Flicker to discuss how the muslins (practice copies of the shirt) were fitting to my body.  They nailed it in the final product: this shirt clings just enough in all the right places while allowing me complete freedom of movement.  After Peter did a professional-grade pressing of the shirt, he took a few more pictures of me.  (A certain reader who was recently wondering about the state of my beard-growing project can judge for himself in this pix.  I've grown it out enough to have it trimmed by my barber....which adds $10 to my total there, but that's still only $30 — including a 30% tip for my buddy Mike with the shears — for a chance to be pampered a little.  Not a bad deal, IMO.)

The darts make my upper back look huge — in a good way!  Maybe if Debbie could put darts in my skin, I wouldn't have to work out nearly as much.
It's strange how this fabric reads as olive green in photos.  It's actually a light turquoise background with an overlying plaid of deep rust.

I'm asking for your opinion here: That gelled-up shock of hair in the front — boyishly cute, or gnomishly cutesy?

This new shirt is most definitely my favorite non-MPB garment I own.  I've already worn it twice in one day.  First, I paired it with some skinny Helmut Lang khakis (the over-long thrift-store pants needing alteration that inspired Peter to buy his first sewing machine, but that's another story at another blog) to take a friend/student out to lunch for his birthday at Markt, a local Belgian cafe I'm currently mad about.  Actually, I didn't know it was Justin's birthday the next day until halfway through the meal, but I'd already offered to pay anyhow.  It seemed like a good deal, since I got to look at this throughout the meal:

Happy Birthday, Justin!

I promise you folks, this kid's gonna be huge on Broadway someday soon.

Belgians really get the concept of comfort food.  Everything is rich, pleasantly simple, and exquisitely presented.  (For instance, every diner who orders coffee gets it in a personal mini French press.)  I chose the Belgian "salad," which purported to be "garnished" with "bacon."  All these quotes represent my (happy) misconceptions: the dish turned out to be a bit of lettuce and perfectly boiled new potatoes smothered in a half a kilo of chewy pork fat diced into tiny cubes.  Heavenly!  Justin ate the daily sandwich special — beef with caramelized onions and melted gouda on a toasted baguette — which came with enough frites to make my gall bladder gurgle from across the table.  I kept wondering how he was going to get through the jazz dance class he was headed to straight from the restaurant.  I guess when you're 22 years and 364 days old, you can get away with that sort of thing.

I also wore the Debbie shirt (with my skinny American Apparel jeans and the RTW corduroy jacket I got into trouble for buying last fall) to the opera last night.  I actually was not feeling up to the opera — I think I had a little cold or something — but I had seat research to do there which had to happen soon, so I went for one act of Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades.  Before the start of the opera, I hopped around among various sections of seating to see what the stage looked like from the different levels.  I am just about to renew my Met subscription for the 2011-12 season and am thinking about upgrading my seat assignment.

I can't afford the best seats at the Met.  Or even the second-, third-, fourth-, or fifth-best ones.  Even the next upgrade from my current, relatively inexpensive seat will add $250 or so onto the cost of an opera season.  But I am tired of missing all the action that occurs upstage left from my partial-view seat, so I am treating myself to an upgrade, probably to a front-row seat in a box in the Grand Tier (2nd balcony).

I am currently in a frame of mind to carpe diem, because we recently found out that a man we'd had dinner with at a French bistro last Friday — a friend of my aunt and uncle's whom Peter and I didn't know previously — had a heart attack and died 5 days later (last Wednesday).  This experience reminded me not to take my existence for granted, to hold every moment precious, and to strive to make every experience special.  R.I.P., George, and thank you for sharing one of your last meals with us and for helping me to value my life even more.

I encourage each of you to take a look around you and treasure the loving people and happy experiences in your life.  Do a little something each day that feels celebratory — don't save up that saffron for a "special day" — today is special enough.

P.S.  Happy birthday also to my sister Sara, who has made my life feel like a celebration for 42 years now.

Happy Birthday, Sara!


  1. "Debbie seems to take great pride in every tiny aspect of her work"

    Nah, Debbie just likes to be silly. The pics (you) look great, and I stole a couple for my post today.

    It's ironic that you linked to the RTW jacket post and wore it with the shirt, because that post is what inspired me to sew this shirt for you. And made me love you and your humor. :-)

    Carpe diem - always excellent advice!

  2. That's really interesting about the RTW jacket, which has now come full circle, I guess! And you love my humor because it's the same as YOUR humor.

  3. What a beautiful shirt!
    I'm in a cajun mood lately too, maybe spring calls for chicken and sausage with peppers and rice

  4. Yep, and red peppers were on sale today at WF for "only" $2.99/lb! I threw in a jalapeno as well for a little springtime kick.

  5. 'Don't save up that saffron' - what a perfect image. Sage advice (er, mixing my herbal references). Lash out on the opera seats. Our favourite (affordable) opera seats in our city's venue are front of the Grand Dress Circle.

  6. Great shirt, Debbie is too modest. Glad I have made it to your blog from MPB (it's further than you think). Justin, wow.
    Answer: gnomish. Go with nature, it looks distinguished (in a good way, not a euphemism-for -pleistocene-era way)

  7. Carpe diem! thanks for the reminder, Michael. I recently discovered that some very nice red wine I had been saving for a 'special occasion' has gone off. Reminder to self- in the tropics, a linen cupboard is *not* a wine cellar. Drink it now!!!

  8. @ Jane: even after a good night's sleep, I am seething with envy over your "sage advice" pun.

    @ Lyndle: Thanks for weighing in about the hair. I agree that distinguished is working for me — although I like the option of going gnomish on occasion. BTW, in our house, PMP is only about 3 feet from MPB.

    @ Mae: Good advice! And here's a reminder to everyone that sparkling wines do not generally improve in the bottle and are not meant to be cellared, but consumed while fresh. A votre santé!

  9. I love everything about this post: inventive Indian leftovers, great beard updates, a fetching shirt (that really does make your back look amahhhzing), Belgian cafés (what beer did you drink, anyway?), and a life lesson! The gelled-up hair is gorgeous, just keep it short. :)

  10. Aw, thanks for the raves, Drew. Since I had to teach in the afternoon, I sadly had to leave the beer list (probably at least 40 selections) unsampled.

  11. the shirt is GREAT. Debbie is good.

    and i was genuinely surprised at the end to find MY photo. That is so cool.