"Frank's Chicken"

September 5th, 2006

Breaded and pan fried chicken breasts, garnished with lemon slices.

4 skinless, boneless breast halves, pounded to 1/4 inch thickness
1/4 cup flour
1 egg
2 Tablespoons water
1 cup (or more) bread crumbs
1/4 cup peanut or canola oil
1 Tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste
For garnish: thinly sliced lemon slices

1. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Beat the egg with the water and place in a flat dish.

2. Dredge the chicken breasts in the flour, dip in the egg, then coat with the breadcrumbs, pressing them in your fingers.

3. Heat the oil and butter in one or two skillets and add the chicken. Cook about 3-5 minutes on each side or until golden. Turn and cook on the other side 3-5 minutes.

To serve:
Remove and serve hot, garnished with the lemon slices.

I normally will not take part in a lemon garnish. I like lemon flavor, but usually opt against lemon juice on my food (e.g. shrimp). This dish is an exception to that rule. The freshness of the lemon slices goes perfectly with the chicken. This dish deserves a healthy bed of mashed potatoes. No dipping sauce or gravy necessary.

September 2nd, 2006
The Adventures of Baron MunchausenBaron Munchausen: Your reality, sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever.

Privatjokr Recommends!

September 1st, 2006

There is a new link for you to be sure to note. I will play around to try to keep things interesting for you and I'll let you know when any worthwhile updates are made. Otherwise, you'll find a link in the sidebar beneath "Check Out."

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September 1st, 2006
Richard Russo - Empire Falls - 212Why ... were adults so insistent that kids be polite? The ones who were most polite always seemed fundamentally untrustworthy.

Outkast - Call the Law

August 31st, 2006

Outkast - Call the Law

I absolutely LOVE Outkast. I have followed their career for years and years and look forward to any and all projects they have coming up, up to and including their new movie Idlewild. That said, it is unfortunate that this track has their name on it, though understandable since it's their movie and their album doubling as the soundtrack to the movie. This song is listed as featuring a woman named Janelle Monáe, but it is her voice that makes this song. She sings throughout most of the song and should really get more than an assist. The song is sort of Broadway musical meets The Triplets of Belleville meets soul meets swing. I think the beat sounds a lot like the one Outkast used for Land of A Million Drums, but it works very well here. This is a great song and I'd love to see a choreographed video for it. Hopefully there will be some good dancing when this is played during the movie.

New Pictures Available

August 30th, 2006

I'm back from my golfing weekend in Northern Michigan. I apologize for not taking more pictures, but the 100+ I took from our 27 hole adventure at the Bay Harbor Golf Club (complete with pics of the various wildlife) are available here:

http://www.privatjokr.com/gallery/thumbnails.php?album=39

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

August 28th, 2006

The Book Thief by Markus ZusakNarrated by Death, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she discovers something she can't resist -- books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.

With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

Markus Zusak, award-winning author of I Am the Messenger, has crafted an unforgettable novel about the ability of books to feed the soul.

I picked this one right up off the shelf at the bookstore. I cannot say exactly what it was that drew me to the book, maybe it was the cover art. I had not heard anything about it so all I had to go on was the synopsis provided on the inside flap(s) of the book.

I have a strange relationship with books that is shared by many readers. There is comfort, nay, magic in not just the words on the pages, but also the smell of the ink and feel of the binding. I wanted to read a story about a young girl who had this same relationship, but in a different time and place. Her circumstances were obviously much more extreme than my mundane life in Suburbia, but I think you will realize that I was not trying to make an apples to apples comparison.

A book written about a young girl will probably have the feel of a book intended for a young-adult audience most of the time. The Book Thief was so centered around the intimate details of the young girl's life that I was not at all surprised that the writing often took form of fiction intended for young adults. I was not surprised, but I was disappointed. A story set in and written about Nazi Germany with as much detail as The Book Thief provided, I would figure to be over the heads of a young-adult audience. There were so many times that the reading would lapse into the young-adult and it would be harsh language or a particularly grown-up, profound concept that would convince me the book is actually adult fiction.

The book is, in fact, listed for young adults. As described above, this comes as no surprise from the writing, but does from the subject matter. I think a young adult could enjoy the book, but he/she would simply not realize there is much more depth contained within the pages. I know I am generalizing, but I don't think the majority of younger readers would fully appreciate the book.

If a few harsh words mean you won't let your kid read it, so be it. If a few sections geared a little too heavily towards a younger audience will prevent you from reading it, so be it as well. If you can get over those hurdles, I do recommend this book to everyone. The book was beautifully compassionate. It dealt with interpersonal relationships under such incredible circumstances and shapes the story through a completely fascinating set of eyes.

I have no idea how the author came up with the idea to write a story with Death as the narrator, but my hat is off to him for what I consider a 100% success in doing so.

The book really ended up being all I could hope for. It was the young-adult crutch that keeps The Book Thief from being a great book, but it was certainly worth the read.

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Tao - New York, NY

August 25th, 2006

We had a lunch reservation at Tao in New York City last week. Our host and tour guide for the few days we were in town suggested Tao and took care of the reservation. We had an incredible lunch at Tao. www.taorestaurant.comThe theme was fantastic. The food, the table settings, the decorations and the layout of the restaurant were all very impressive.

My lunchmates split a sushi dish that I was clearly too afraid to branch out and try. I liked that they ordered one dish and the server actually recommended they try something else. He was very adament in his recommendation and said he stood by it without undermining their original choice. I would hate to speak for them, but they seemed very pleased with their decision to follow his suggestion. I am a big fan of a knowledgeable wait staff, especially when the servers interact with the table more than for just taking an order and refilling water glasses.

During the week Tao offers a prix fixe menu for lunch. Apparently it used to be under $20, but it is now $24.07. The menu (pdf) offers a variety of pan Asian dishes. I ordered the Peking Duck Spring Rolls with Hoisin Sauce, Kung Pao Chicken and the Chocolate & Raspberry Wontons with Vanilla Ice Cream.

I traded one of my duck spring rolls for a skewer of chicken satay from one of my lunchmates. I definitely made the right choice with the duck. The spring rolls were moist and delicious. The hoisin sauce added a nice light flavor if used, but I opted against for the most part.

I was expecting a spicier dish in the kung pao chicken. Believe me, I was not at all disappointed to find it was not spicy. I would have eaten and enjoyed it had it been spicy, but it was great mild. It was plated with very roughly chopped bell peppers and cantaloupe. I am a big rice fan, so I could have eaten more than the single scoop at the center of my plate, but there wasn't really any room in my stomach for more.

The chocolate and raspberry wontons were delicious. They were a little too big for one bite and a little too hard to cut to make into smaller bites, but that has never stopped me before and it didn't stop me at Tao. The ice cream was drizzled with caramel and chocolate sauce. Any time ice cream is involved I am happy.

I was incredibly impressed with the amount of food we got and how much I enjoyed it for a $24.07 three-course lunch. I highly recommend Tao in New York City. I'm glad we were able to go while I was in town.

If you happen to be out west, Tao Las Vegas is located in the Venetian Hotel.

East Coast Road Trip Part II - More Friends and Two Nights in NYC

August 24th, 2006

Cont'd from East Coast Road Trip Part I - A Day in the Car and a Night in Philadelphia.

Josh's friend Will was kind enough to host us for our two nights in "the city." He lives in a stereotypical New York City apartment in the Murray Hill area (so he said). Parking is not the easiest thing to do, but we found a place to leave my car and caught a cab to the apartment. A boring afternoon of sitting on the couch, watching ESPN and making then changing plans for the evening ensued.

If you were wondering, it is rather difficult to plan an evening out when coordinating 2+ groups of people. Even more so when one of the two groups is incredibly fickle. Once the non-committal UofM grads finally got their act together, I could fill the easy-going Villanova grads in on the plans.

The first bar, which I believe was called The Delancey, was horrible. It could have been fun had there been more space available on the roof, but each table was reserved. The downstairs/inside area was a) empty b) expensive c) no fun. Yes I understand that b) is to be expected in NYC, but it is only worth mentioning when a) and c) are present as well. The only highlight was when Matt, Doug and Andrew showed up. Once they met up with us, there was no need to stay there.

Croxley Ales (I think that's the name) was the next destination. We segregated somewhat at this bar, for me to catch up with my friends and Josh to catch up with his, before the two groups converged somewhere else later in the night. Croxley was the place where Doug and Andrew bid us goodnight and Scottie joined the fun. Rumor has it: Croxley Ales has a pretty mediocre order of chicken fingers.

To this point, the night has been fun, sure, but it was Josh's birthday so the stop at the next place needed to be only a brief one (for a few pitchers of sangria) before we moved on. Not including carry out from the diner by Will's apartment, our final destination was Chelsea Piers. Someone said that where we went may have been called the Frying Pan or something like that. It was a party barge hosted by a contingent of proud Italians where they played loud European techno. We would not have stood much of a chance getting into the party had one of Josh's friends not gone to bat for us with the bouncer. It was like watching a live take of Jim Carrey on the elevator with one particular woman in the movie Liar Liar...

I was not surprised to learn that it was not the first time that Matt had employed his tactic of walking up to random women, placing his index finger on their head and flat out ordering them to spin around like a ballerina. If I had to picture my sister-in-law coming up with two words for this method, I would guess "offensive" and "degrading." If I had to come up with two words of my own they would be "surprisingly" and "effective." Kudos, Matt.

Like a preoccupied parent in a busy department store, I lost Scottie at one point. There was no need to panic when I found him shortly thereafter standing behind the giant stage. The real show, he taught us, was not seeing the drunk people party from the front, it was watching, from behind, the two girls in short shorts at the back of the stage. Everything he does is gold; some things never change.

____

Friday held much of the same from a broad perspective. After I woke up at the crack of dawn (9:30am) and took the $9 cab ride to my car so I could move it for the street cleaners and did what felt like a walk of shame all the way back to Will's apartment, the day began.

We had an awesome lunch at Tao on 58th, which I will post about separately. After lunch we walked down 5th Ave, and through Times Square for a bit before finding ourselves back on Will's couch with a pair of 6-packs to watch (I can't believe I'm about to admit this) the Yankees game. We had plans to be at Matt's apartment by 8 to grab food before we went out, ultimately to go to a bar where Will was offered free shots whenever he comes by because the bouncer thought he and Josh were from Harlem. That's right. Josh. From Harlem. Be patient, I'll explain that in due time. There was a small set-back in our schedule however.

While we were starting to get ready for our night out, we had the radio on. At one point, we heard one terrible song and changed the station. It was on the next station, too. And the next. We could not figure out why a song with such simple (see: stupid) lyrics could be so popular as to be on so many stations on a Friday evening. Our good friends at Google, combined with the glory that is Youtube saved the day. One of the three of us may or may not have seen some kids on the BET show 106 and Park promoting that very same song and the dance craze that accompanies it. We easily killed an hour and a half watching some HILARIOUS videos on Youtube for the Chicken Noodle Soup Dance (and Nurse Kate).

Some favorites:
me, neno, an jc killen that chicken noodle soup dance
Me (Smilez) Bussin one of my moves for tha chicken noodle soup dance.
Dee & Dre killing the chicken noodle dance.

Will was actually letting it rain, as the song goes, outside of the bar when he was confronted by the bouncer. "Are you guys from Harlem?" The Chicken Noodle Soup Dance is sweeping through Harlem and before we got our hands on it, was known by very few (white) people outside of New York. We proclaimed Chicken Noodle Gospel to friends from all over on the rest of our trip. High comedy.

Also included in Friday night were two trips to the same bar, book ending the bar where Will now gets free shots. Tonic was an interesting place, but nothing special. The place was absolutely packed for what ended up being the longest baseball game in the history of the MLB. We could not stand the place while it was that crowded which led to our going next door. We went back when we thought the place would be more fun since the other place was basically empty.

Our return trip to Tonic meant good times. Let me start the story on a highlight, Will met a girl. From there, it is all downhill. When the writers of Wedding Crashers described the "stage 5 clinger" they had not met "Alicia." There is debate about whether he enlisted the correct man's help in getting rid of her by asking my brother's friend Josh (different Josh...who lives in NYC and was able to join us) to be mean to her. I didn't know he had asked Josh for help, so I came into the conversation late.

Alicia: Why would you say that? That is so rude.
Josh: ...
Me: Rude? Josh? No. Not possible. (Knowing it was not only possible, but probable.)
Alicia: He told me that he wished this pole would fall on my head.
Me: He would never say something like that.
Alicia: He just did!
Josh: No, she's right. I did say that.

Come on. That's funny. He said he wanted the pole to fall on her head! Wow. You have a warped sense of physical comedy. And not even that was enough to get this girl to leave poor Will alone. I love New York (enjoy that, I don't say it often).

I almost got an omelet from the diner that night, but I had an overwhelming urge for something...fried.

Stay tuned for East Coast Road Trip Part III - One for the Books "Down the Shore."

Number of consecutive days eating chicken fingers: 3.

Top 5 Movies: Best Professional Athlete Cameos

August 24th, 2006

1. Alex Karras in Blazing Saddles

2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Airplane!

3. Andre the Giant in Princess Bride

4. Cam Neely in Dumb & Dumber

5. Dan Marino in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

(Honorable Mention: Brett Favre in There's Something About Mary)

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