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Food

That looks like bait!

sushiI don’t exactly know why I enjoy sushi so much. Had never eaten any until I left Tennessee to go to college in Florida. And thirty some years ago, there weren’t sushi restaurants on almost every corner as there are now.

As I live in the large cosmopolitan metropolis of Atlanta, the plethora of choices to have good sushi is astounding. Even grocery stores like Publix and Whole Foods carry an abundance. (Don’t knock Publix sushi. It ain’t half bad!)

I worked on a show on the west Coast of Japan for three and a half months in the early nineties. Having great sushi and sashimi there was a given. Everything I ate was fresh and right out of the water. (We Americans always think we can do things better. I don’t ever remember seeing a Japanese person using chopsticks to eat a sushi roll. Sashimi, yes. But they use their hands to pick up and eat sushi. Makes sense to me. But, hey, I grab the chopsticks as soon as I sit down in the restaurant.)

After living in Japan, and not eating all of the corn syrup and refined sugar that is in every bit of processed food here at home, my palate became better at discerning the inherent sweetness in more foods. There is a gentleness and sweetness in salmon. You have to pause to taste it. (I admit the first bean paste treat I tasted in Japan was not appealing to me at all. Why the hell do they think this is sweet? But after a few weeks on no refined sugars, I got it! The gorgeous and beautiful bean paste flavored desserts had a subtle and delicate sweetness that was so pleasing.)

I think those that don’t enjoy sushi have never really tried it. If fish tastes fishy or smells fishy, it just came out of murky water, has not been cleaned well, has just been sitting out too long or is just bad. Avoid it like the plague! Fresh fish tastes slightly briny and has subtle mineral flavors that are delicate and delicious.

I tried to get my father to try some once and he balked instantly. I always laugh when I think of him referring to sushi as bait.

Do you enjoy sushi and sashimi? What’s your favorite? Comment below.

Thoughts

The glass is half full!

wineglassThis week has affected me emotionally, as it has so many others around the world. Watching all of the coverage of the devastation in Oklahoma makes me sad.

But, if you look, you see the glimmers of light and love and compassion and caring. You see hands extended to each other regardless of race, creed, age or any other definer we use. Humanity helping humanity. Humanity loving humanity. You can still see it through the swirling fog of judgment that comes from viewing it from someone else’s lense.

(I hope this week that our country as a whole that we don’t pay or respect our school teachers enough. They laid on top of those children to protect them! Heroes, they are heroes!)

Several friends and family members have gone through some pretty trying medical and personal challenges in the last few months. Why do I mention this? As with the tragedies that we see in the news almost daily, the personal mountains that family and friends climb helps to refocus purpose in life for me.

Live in the moment. Live in the moment. Live in the moment.

I tend to dwell in the past and worry about the future. (You do too! Yes, you!) Doing that makes me miss and less grateful for what is directly in front of me.

Everyone has heard the phrase that the glass is either half full or half empty. (Unless it is a really good wine and then the glass is just empty!) It depends on your view of it. And your view is your choice.

You choose every thought that you have. And once again. You choose every thought that you have.

You can choose to get upset about something or choose to not. You can choose to be nice to someone or choose to not. You can choose how you react to crisis or you can choose to not. Sounds easy, but it is not. But like anything, the more you work at it, the easier it becomes.

If you were just awful to someone yesterday, you can be nice to them today. If you didn’t do well in school yesterday, you can study harder tomorrow. If you burned the soufflé, maybe you should cook something that is a little easier. (I’m just sayin’.) You have a choice in every thought in every moment.

I am heartbroken when I see folks, children especially, choose anger first. Even in the most mundane situations. Try being nice to the server, cashier, flight attendant, host, any frigging body you come in contact with daily and see the smile, the light, the love. Tell the folks you love that you love them. Do it!

You can call me “Pollyanna” (look it up!) if you want. (Please, I have been called worse. Especially around the holidays. “Deck the halls with Paul Holly” has to be my favorite.) Try a little tenderness. Try being nice. Try choosing love over hate.

What have you got to lose? Your high blood pressure, maybe? Stress will kill you.

The cup really is half full!

Restaurant Reviews

Please hold……..

cell phoneI have attended over seventy theatrical productions in the past ten months and many films. Sitting in a darkened theatre with anticipation of the magic that is about to unfold before me is one of the greatest pleasures in my life. The anticipation, the tension, the darkness, the suspension of disbelief….and then, someone forgot to shut off their cell phone. And I am whisked back to reality. And sadness.

If you didn’t hear what happened to Kevin Williamson, a theatre critic for the National Review, here is a link to his first person account of the incident. http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/348453/theater-night-vigilantes-1-vulgarians-0-kevin-williamson
In short, an entitled woman sitting near him chatted and texted on her cell phone during the first act of the final preview performance of a new Off Broadway musical. She conversed loudly with her friends and was grossly interruptive. At intermission, Mr. Williamson approached house management and asked them to tell her to tone it down. They did. She didn’t. So, during the second act, he asked her to quiet down, she didn’t, he grabbed her cell phone and tossed it across the theatre toward the exit. BRAVO! She slapped him, became more disruptive and security came and escorted Mr. Williamson out of the theatre.

If I had been at that performance, I would have cheered for him. I certainly understand his outrage. Her entitled tactlessness during the performance ruined the whole show for everyone.

If you feel that you are so much more important than the rest of civilized society and that your calls, conversations and texts outweigh the standards of polite decency for those around you, maybe you should stay HOME!

This is not just a problem amongst out youth. At a performance of a Suzi Award winning play last year, a gentleman in his late seventies or early eighties received a text during the show and took his time texting back. After several minutes of glaring light, his wife finally asked him to put it away. Can’t blame the young for everything.

When did we lose our politeness and concern for others in our presence? My parents took my brother and me to movies, the theatre, the circus, restaurants, Holiday on Ice (Cheers to you if you are old enough for that reference.) and other events. They guided us in how we should act. They usually wanted us to be as calm and polite as we were in church or at a funeral. We also got the “fear of God” look from my father if we acted up and we knew he would honestly never take us anywhere again. We were a reflection of our parents, in public. (My brother and I bickered and fought like cats and dogs at home. We were far from perfect.)

But somewhere, those parental social skills stopped being taught. A few years before my father passed away, as we sat in a popular chain restaurant in Franklin, TN, the unthinkable happened. A woman in her thirties with four children under the age of about seven at her table was chatting away on her cell phone. The youngest proceeded to play under the table on the floor of the restaurant. Delightful! Without her knowledge or should I say without interrupting her phone call, the little one crawled a good ten feet away under our table and across my father’s feet. I think I forgot to take a breath as my father usually would have said something out loud and unfiltered. But he didn’t. He just had a sad look in his eyes. The same sad look I have when something like that happens to me.

Just turn your damn cell phones off folks! Nothing is that important for a couple of hours.

Restaurant Reviews

Very optimistic!

Opt 2Going to new (or “new to me”) restaurants is a joy to me in this life. My opinions usually range from the sublime to the ridiculous. I prefer to check out a place more than once before I give it a rave or a big thumbs down. You never know what kind of night the staff might be having.

But after dining at The Optimist http://theoptimistrestaurant.com last night here in Atlanta, I shall rave on! Make a reservation and go…….now.

I, as always, checked out the menu online before I joined my fellow family foodie, Ann, for dinner last night. (Try to say that fast three times.)

The complimentary valet parking guys set the mood by laughing and just being nice guys as we arrived. As we strolled past the putting green (yep, that’s a little odd) and through the fun and comfortable outdoor seating, entering the first room at the host desk, we were greeted with big, easy smiles as we confirmed our reservation and opted to sit at the oyster bar before making it into the dining room.

Behind the bar is a beautiful wood fired oven putting that gorgeous aroma in the air that just makes me salivate. We ordered two of the fun mixed cocktail rum punches and with the oven staring us down, some of the roasted oysters. Topped with paprika butter and just a little parmesan cheese, they are only in the heat until the cheese melts and the butter sizzles, leaving them still plump, juicy and luscious. The oven gives it just the slightest smoky hint over the top. Delish!

Smiling from ear to ear, we headed to the main dining room. On a Wednesday, the place was pleasantly full. I am sure on the weekends, it is packed.

Logan, our laid back, fun and knowledgeable waitress for the evening, helped guide us to a lovely bottle of wine. Wine with dinner is just part of the food. Not a drink – drink, part of the whole meal.

She suggested the Gruner Veltliner, Berger, Kremstal 2011. It reminded me of a Gewürztraminer, but not as sweet. Very crisp, light and lovely. She hit a homerun and we haven’t even ordered! Go Logan, go Logan!

Ann started with the grilled calamari salad and I chose the smoked white fish chowder. Let my vibratory moment begin! I am sure you have felt that feeling when you are so happy, so satisfied, just living in the moment, enjoying life and feeling that all is right with the world. Well prepared and executed food does that to me. It feels like I am vibrating with light! Sadly, not often enough. The chowder did it!

Silky smooth with lots of smoky fish and finely diced vegetables. A bit thinner than its New England roots, this is exactly how I prefer it. It had a perfect balance of salt, savory and earthiness with a luscious cream finish.

With Logan’s guidance, I chose the crispy red fish served with roasted peppers and a lovely soy based sauce. Ann had the seared tuna steak with a crispy potato salad. The potato salad had an oil based dressing instead of mayonnaise and was served warm. Potato deliciousness!

The soy sauce based sauce on my fish was delicate and not over salty. It also didn’t really have an Asian flair. Most sauces have a tendency to put themselves in front of the protein, this didn’t. The sauce was actually a beautiful background for the crispy fried delicate redfish. Yum!

We wanted to just walk over to the big bar for another cocktail after all of this great food, but it was packed, so we ambled back out to the oyster bar. I didn’t think I wanted any dessert but, hey, a homemade key lime push-up pop on the menu, are you kidding me, it was just screaming my name. Fun, funky and precious and also the perfect coda on the end of a glorious food evening.

The menu here is definitely skewed to very fresh seafood. There is a chicken dish, a pork dish and a steak dish on the menu, but the chef obviously is working wonders with his ever changing fresh seafood and fish. Vegans, vegetarians and paleos will just have to make do with the abundant sides. We ordered a side of roasted Vidalia onions wOpt 1ith our meal. They were charred to perfection!

The best thing about The Optimist is the vibe. The hip West Midtown dining and drinking scene is white hot and sometimes you feel very underwhelmed by pretentious food, overpriced drinks and uptight staff. The vibe here was just perfect. Everyone seemed to be glad we were there. (Take that Miller Union. Although your food is spectacular, sometimes I have felt rushed as you wanted to turn the table and stepped on by folks that just want to see and be seen.)

The sous chef was handling the kitchen last night, as Logan said the chef was away filming something. I hope he is on the next Top Chef. He deserves an award for getting it all right!