CN Tower

November 11th, 2011


CN Tower at Night

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield

November 10th, 2011

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane SetterfieldReclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long. Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good. Margaret is mesmerized by the author's tale of gothic strangeness -- featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire. Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

A woman is chosen, seemingly at random, to write the biography for England's most cherished and most mysterious author. Margaret comes to live with the secretive Vida Winter to chronicle the series of unlikely and hard-to-believe situations that shaped her into the woman and the prolific storyteller that she became. She hears tales of twins, ghosts, love affairs, missing parents and more. The journey on which Ms. Winter takes Margaret is heart-breaking and wondrous. They are secrets that the world is waiting with bated breath to hear, but secrets that might need to be kept.

This is a bizarre little book, but one I really enjoyed. I found the plot to be very creative and unlike anything I've read before. I am always glad to read something so different. Some of the events described were surprisingly aggressive, which I'm not used to, but I was able to adapt. The one thing that I cannot deny was the power in Diane Setterfield's writing; it was awesome. She wrote poetically and emotionally and that is how I adapted to the stories told; good writing can transform just about anything into something worth reading about.

Admittedly, it took me a very long time to get around to reading this book. I tell myself that I do that to distance myself from the recommendations I receive so my expectations aren't too high, but sometimes the plot just sounds so droll. I do not want to raise your expectations to a level where they cannot be met by this book, but I enjoyed it and I hope you do too.

Amazon

November 9th, 2011
Christopher Paolini - Eragon - 172"People have an annoying habit of remembering things they shouldn't."

The Expendables

November 8th, 2011

The ExpendablesSylvester Stallone stars as Barney Ross, leader of The Expendables, a tight-knit team of skilled combat vets turned mercenaries. Hired by a powerful covert operator, the team jets off to a small South American country to overthrow a ruthless dictator. Once there, they find themselves caught in a deadly web of deceit and betrayal. Using every weapon at their disposal, they set out to save the innocent and punish the guilty in this blistering action-packed thriller.

Sylvester Stallone is Barney Ross, who leads a group of (aging) mercenaries and accepts a contract that leads the team to some remote island nation to kill its military head. While on location, Stallone's character falls for some unlikely lady in an attempt to sneak some plot into this movie that is really just an all-star cast for fighting sequences and big explosions. I love fighting sequences. I love big explosions. I love movies with Jason Statham and movies with Jet Li and movies with...each of the guys in this movie (Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews and Mickey Rourke). So one movie with all of them together is intriguing, right? There is one AMAZING action sequence that is worth seeing, but the rest of the movie fails to entertain. Consider The Expendables to be the action-equivalent to what Wild Hogs was for comedy; a last hurrah of sorts for a cast that has been around the block a few too many times.

Somehow The Expendables earned itself a sequel and hopefully they'll get this one right and stick to fighting and explosions.

Amazon

November 7th, 2011
Once Upon A Time in MexicoAgent Sands: El, you really must try this because it's puerco pibil. It's a slow-roasted pork, nothing fancy. It just happens to be my favorite, and I order it with a tequila and lime in every dive I go to in this country. And honestly, that is the best it's ever been anywhere. In fact, it's too good. It's so good that when I'm finished, I'll pay my check, walk straight into the kitchen and shoot the cook. Because that's what I do. I restore the balance to this country. And that is what I would like from you right now. Help keep the balance by pulling the trigger.

The Alloy of Law

November 2nd, 2011

The Alloy of Law: A Mistborn Novel by Brandon Sanderson

The Alloy of Law: A Mistborn Novel by Brandon SandersonFresh from the success of The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson, best known for completing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time®, takes a break to return to the world of the bestselling Mistborn series.

Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.
Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history—or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice.

One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn, who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.

This book will be available on November 8, 2011.

Pre-order your copy.

November 1st, 2011
The Finkler Question by Howard JacobsonIt was only when he waved goodbye that it occurred to Treslove that his old friend wanted company. Libor was right - Finkler was seeking love. A man without a wife can be lonely in a big black Mercedes, no matter how many readers he has.

Shamu Backflip

October 28th, 2011


Shamu Show

Braised Short Ribs

October 26th, 2011

* 6 bone-in short ribs (about 5 3/4 pounds)
* Kosher salt
* Extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
* 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
* 2 carrots, peeled, cut in 1/2 lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
* 2 cloves garlic, smashed
* 1 1/2 cups tomato paste
* 2 to 3 cups hearty red wine
* 2 cups water
* 1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
* 2 bay leaves

Season each short rib generously with salt. Coat a pot large enough to accommodate all the meat and vegetables with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan. Cook in batches, if necessary.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

While the short ribs are browning, puree all the vegetables and garlic in the food processor until it forms a coarse paste. When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan. Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pan with fresh oil and add the pureed vegetables. Season the vegetables generously with salt and brown until they are very dark and a crud has formed on the bottom of the pan, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape the crud and let it reform. Scrape the crud again and add the tomato paste. Brown the tomato paste for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat if things start to burn. Reduce the mixture by half.

Return the short ribs to the pan and add 2 cups water or until the water has just about covered the meat. Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Cover the pan and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours. Check periodically during the cooking process and add more water, if needed. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time. Remove the lid during the last 20 minutes of cooking to let things get nice and brown and to let the sauce reduce. When done the meat should be very tender but not falling apart. Serve with the braising liquid.
-Anne Burrell

I am not a fan of Anne Burrell's personality, but I will be forever thankful for this recipe. It is nothing earth-shattering, if you look at it, but it de-mystified short ribs for me. I had always figured that they required some technique I do not possess. In truth, they just take time. Some people may argue with this, but patience in the kitchen is something I do possess.

I've now made braised short ribs twice; the second time was slightly different from the first and even the first was slightly different from the recipe above. As it stands right now, I can tell you that the only things you need are a good pan (at a great price I might add), as many short ribs as you plan to make, something in which to braise your ribs and about 3 hours.

I used the wine the first time and I don't think it adds enough to require it going forward (though I do think a pint of Guinness may get used at some point). I consider bay leaves to be innocuous, but use them if you like. If you have thyme in your herb garden, grab some, otherwise you get plenty of flavor without wasting the money on fresh herbs that will just end up withered and ultimately trashed. I use more vegetables than called for in the recipe. And I always use more garlic. Always.

Served with (roasted garlic!) mashed potatoes, short ribs are delicious. The finished product tastes a lot like pot roast...which is really all you've made anyway. This is just another option when you don't feel like the same old Sunday roast.

2005 Luna Vineyards Reserve Sangiovese

October 25th, 2011

Luna Vineyards had more of a wine-lounge feel to it than a more casual place for wine tasting, which may be what people talk about with the commercialization of Napa Valley compared to its humble roots. I remember less light in the main tasting room than the pictures on the website suggest, which gave it more of that posh, European lounge feel. But this place has good wine. (It was fascinating to watch as a wine producer from nearby brought over a case of its latest release to trade. How cool would it be to do that?!) I was not put off by the decor, but did feel a little intimidated by the staff who had little time for me as a relative wine novice.

I haven't had much exposure to sangiovese beyond a few Super Tuscans that position their tannins on the brute-force offensive. When I had this wine I knew a bottle was coming home with me. There's some heat here, but it burns for only a second and washes away clean. It has held up incredibly well while it waited for me to get nostalgic enough to crack it open. Now I'm just left wishing I'd bought more. Luna is currently in the 2007 release, which is listed for $40. I really like this wine. Maybe I'll try the 2007 or maybe I'll break this bad habit I have developed recently of ordering wine directly from these boutique wineries and shipping it across the country. Anyone want to split S&H with me?