“…while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.” The famous sugar plums spoken about in Clement Clark Moore’s beloved poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas were actually sugar-coated coriander. Later the recipe changed and came to include other spices and dried fruit. Chris of Alice & Chris fame sent us a quartet of these sugar plums, along with the recipe. I followed this recipe and made my own batch of sugar plums. They were really easy to make. We’ll bring these confections to share at Smokin’ Joe’s annual Christmas cookie party, where guests bring a plate to share. Everyone also decorates cookies and then at the end of the night, we will all load up our plates with the party’s bounty. I am also looking forward with seeing many of my friends and former colleagues again. This year will be the 30th rendition of this party.
Last night was a date night, with dinner and a show. Anne and I dined at Little Saigon Café in the Central West End and then saw “The King and I”, performed at the Fox. This pairing made for an enjoyable Indochina themed evening.
Back in the day, we used to frequent Little Saigon for date nights. Then the boys were still young and our need for romantic getaways were fulfilled at this exotic and tucked-away establishment. The menu now boasts more western influences then I remember, but our food was still good. We started by sharing a pair of shrimp summer rolls. I had their shaking beef, which gets its English name from the constant shaking of the pan while browning the meat. This dish featured wok-seared flank steak and onions that is served over a bed of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and a side of lemon garlic dressing. Anne chose their ginger rice and chicken. Featuring wok-fried jasmine rice with ginger, shredded chicken, soy-ginger sauce and topped with scallions and cilantro. Served with cabbage salad.
We have seen “The King and I” before. Mostly at the Muny, where it has been performed five times during our tenure in town. We even saw Yul Brynner in his signature role there. He was on his swan-song tour, while dying of cancer.
This production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein favorite was more sumptuous than any I have seen. The musical opens with Anna, the “I” in the show, on the prow of a titanic yacht, first docking in Bangkok and who is moved to whistle a happy tune. In this performance it was also refreshing to see all of the characters of color played by actors of color. It is 2017 and this fact should be able to go unremarked, but then there it is. This was not an inconsequential casting decision, what with this play’s 50+ member cast of men, women and children.
None of the score’s standards have paled with time. It was glorious to hear them all sung again. The musical itself has also worn well. In this #MeToo moment, the play’s dueling themes of unrequited love versus man’s barbarism resonate with what we now read daily in the news. Anna and the king spar, but also listen to each other and eventually learn from each other. Their friendship is tragically mirrored in the romance of the two star-crossed lovers from Burma (Myanmar) and foreshadowed in the play within a play, Small House of Uncle Thomas.
There are also moments of levity, such as the dressing scene, where the king’s wives are trying to get used to wearing western hoop skirts. A British envoy is arriving and Anna and the king are striving to show him that Siam (Thailand) is not a barbaric nation. A sight gag is the casting of an absurdly tall actor as the envoy, who is head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the cast. When he stands next to the king it serves as a visual reminder of how things once were.
As amazing as this rather retro poster’s price is, I bought eggs last week for 49¢. It was a fluke, because the next time I shopped for eggs they were a much less surprising $1.49. I don’t think that it was a typo though.
I picked Anne up from school. Our destination was the Maplewood business district and their Christmas tree lighting. On the way over, Anne vented about her day:
A 3rd Grader: Why did you mark all my answers wrong?
Our Favorite Teacher: I’m working with this student. Please wait your turn.
A3G: You always mark my answers wrong, because you don’t like me.
OFT: I grade tests independent of who took it.
A3G: You hate me!
OFT: I do not hate you.
A3G: You just said, “I […] hate you.”
The MRH Elementary School choir was the highlight of the tree ceremony. We tried shopping at some of the stores, but they were all slammed. I’ll swing by later, during the week, when they will be less crowded. We supped at Reed’s American Table and shared 3 small plates for dinner:
kale salad, apricots, cherries, pecans, Stilton blue cheese & juniper dressing
“lobster” roll, butter poached monk fish, sauce americaine, brioche, tarragon & chive
mushroom panna cotta, leaks, shiitake and cremini mushrooms, frisee salad, grapes & walnut vinaigrette
For dessert, we shared:
persimmon tart, nutmeg oat streusel, brandy caramel & vanilla whipped cream
After eating out at Reed’s, the difference between buying eggs at 49¢ versus $1.49 was just budget dust. There was frost on the windshield and there is now snow on the blog. This Christmas thing is starting to get real. Happy Holidays!
Becca, Rey and Dave all arrived safely last night. Rey and Becca arrived first, making good time, having drove straight through from Chattanooga. I made Saint Louis style veggie pizzas for dinner, also-know-as Imo’s. Dave’s flight from Boston was early too. Lambert was a zoo, what with it being its busiest day of the year and all. It was almost like old times, like back in the day, when Saint Louis was still a hub. While Rey and I were scanning the arrivals for Dave, Dan, who elected not to travel on this holiday was chiming in on our group text chat chain. Later, Kennard, Dave’s high school buddy, swung by and they went out, while the rest of us went to bed.
This morning, everyone broke fast with Trader Joe’s croissants, both chocolate and almond. These little beauties started the night before looking like a dog’s chew toy, but came out of the oven all flakey and brown. Rey and Becca went to the zoo, while Anne and I worked in the kitchen. We got the bird in the oven on the first stroke of noon. Is this hubris that I’m feeling or are we really that good?
Joanie joined us for supper. We all tripped out on tryptophan, excepting Becca. Sides included, Auntie Anne’s homemade cranberry sauce, Harry’s stuffing that was updated with some really good veggie chorizo, roasted potatoes, pumpkin and sweet potato soup, a pear-pomegranate-walnut-cheese salad and Rey and Becca’s roasted Brussel sprouts with chipotle sauce. Joanie bookended the meal with horderves and a Tippin’s pumpkin pie, plus rolls.
After dinner and dessert, we played games, Scrabble first and then a new one, where you try to corner the gem market. I tried hoarding diamonds, which seemed to work, until it didn’t. Anne won the Scrabble came, even with me dishing to Rey. Rey won the gem game, but I guess I can claim second.
We here at RegenAxe are always searching, nay scouring the world for new and exotic culinary treats and with our national holiday dedicated to food soon fast upon us, this quest has reached a fever pitch. Even at this late hour, we are still formulating our Thanksgiving day menu. Our modern turkey day table requires cuisine that meets a multitude of palates. What with your veggies and vegans, paleo, traditionalists, gluten-free, lactose intolerant and just plain food fussy, it is hard to plate a meal. As if, just plating a meal is what “it” is all about, because we also have lapping at our heels all those Martha wannabes. This isn’t a food fight, this is a food war. So, let’s get it on!
Hey, we’ll be the first to admit that last year’s holiday meal didn’t go as well as we had hoped, but when you’re cooking on the leading edge, taking risks, things sometime happen. It’s not like anyone died. Our attorney doesn’t want us to say anymore and we won’t, except that most of the paralysis is gone from most of the guests. We like to say. what’s past is past and then move on.
This year we have a totally novel Thanksgiving idea. Now, it not fully thought out, but bear with us. The above picture captures it perfectly, sardines and kelp. Well? …Huh. Don’t rush to judgement until you hear some of the details.
First, we plan on serving the sardines live and swimming in a large green tureen that we will place in the middle of our table. All of our guests will be issued little spear guns. What could go wrong with that? It will be like shooting fish in a barrel, except it won’t be a barrel, but that fancy tureen we got at our wedding and haven’t been able to find a use for until now.
Complementing this life aquatic themed party, we’ll also give our guests face masks and snorkels. With barbed projectiles flying, eye protection is always a good idea, plus we can decant champagne down the snorkels. Sounds like fun!
What about the kelp? I’m so glad that you asked. We plan on wrapping the fish in the kelp leaves, something like what is done using grape leaves with Greek dolmades. Except that comparison doesn’t really do our plans justice, because we won’t just be wrapping the sardines, we’ll be dressing them in the latest of fashions. We can’t say who they will be wearing, we’re still negotiating, but rest assure this will be a meal to remember, where haute cuisine meets high fashion.