Wednesday, March 28, 2007

St. Patrick's Day 2007

OK, it wasn't quite as fun as St. Patrick's Day 2006 in Venice but we still had a great time last weekend at The Dubliner here in Heidelberg. Here are a few pics...

Monday, March 19, 2007

Top 10 Foods my Wife Makes

She's unbelievable in the kitchen. She can make just about anything but here are my 10 favorite dishes that she makes, in no particular order:

1. Sweet potato chicken curry. I'm a curry fanatic so anything with curry I will love. This dish has sweet potatoes, chicken, carrots, green peppers and sometimes some other vegetables, all in a yellow curry sauce. She serves it over basmati rice.

2. Mahi Mahi. She pan fries it and uses some kind of balsamic vinegar marinade with black pepper and garlic.

3. Mediterranean Chicken. One of her signature dishes. She uses a whole chicken and serves it on couscous mixed with chick peas, lima beans, green and black olives, and some kind of light tangy sauce.

4. Teriyaki chicken thighs. Nothing special but unbelievably tasty. She marinates the chicken thighs in some kind of teriyaki sauce.

5. Seafood pasta. She doesn't make this much anymore because it's nearly impossible to get good seafood here but when we were in Italy she made it often. She used an Italian tomato and olive based sauce and put in some extra green and black olives.

6. Flank Steak. She prepares it a few different ways but I think my favorite is when she cuts it in strips and marinates it in balsamic vinegar. Always tender and juicy and delicious.

7. Chinese. Not surprising since she spent all of her adult life in Hong Kong and one of her main jobs was cooking. She makes a variety of noodle and rice dishes with vegetables, chicken, beef, pork and shrimp that are as good as any Chinese restaurant I've ever eaten at.

8. Salmon steak. She marinates it with some kind of mustard, garlic, lemon sauce then pan fries it.

9. Thai soup. She's really good at making pretty much any kind of Asian food. She makes a really good Thai soup with tom yum paste, mushroom, green pepper, shrimp (or chicken) and cabbage and she makes it really spicy.

10. Adobo - ribs or chicken. Adobo is the main dish from the Philippines and is delicious. Her ribs are so tender that the meat just slides right off the bone. Her chicken adobo is one of the few dishes that the X Man asks for by name. For the adobo she uses soy sauce, black pepper, garlic, shallots, basil, vinegar and a little bit of sugar.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Virginia and the X Man are going to the Philippines

We've decided to send Virginia and the X Man back home to visit her family. It will be great for her to be able to spend some time with them and for her family to be able to spend time with the X Man who they miss so much. While we absolutely love living in Europe, it does suck that our parents are not able to see the X Man as much as they'd like to so any opportunity to get together with them is great.

Anyway, they will be leaving April 24th and returning June 11 so they'll have a good month and a half to get reacquainted with Lola and Lolo. As for me, I have to work so I'll remain here, living on sandwiches and watching a lot of porn. Ha ha, just kidding...I'll be eating more than sandwiches.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Pictures of the Wife

My lovely wife Virginia...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The X Man says the Darndest Things.

I can't even count the number of times the X Man has said something that just makes me laugh out loud. This kid has a penchant for saying the funniest things that leave you wondering "where the heck did he learn that?!". Well, yesterday was one of those times. For those of you who aren't familiar with the way television works overseas, AFN - Armed Forces Network - are not allowed to show commercials overseas. In lieu of this we receive all kinds of public service announcements and cheesy home made commercials telling us not to smoke, not to gamble, stuff like that. One of the cheesiest ones is about suicide prevention. It features a bunch of soldiers talking about looking for signs that your buddy might be suicidal and the worst (and funniest) moment is during the "dramatization" of what you're supposed to do; one dude walks over to his buddy who is sitting down with his head in his hands and asks him, in a very monotone, robot-like voice "Are you thinking about suicide?"

So yesterday we're getting ready to go out for a walk, I'm sitting on the bench putting my shoes on and the X Man walks up to me with his juice in his hands and out of the blue says "Are you thinking about suicide?".

Man, I gotta start marketing this kid...

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The X Man Will Play Pro Soccer.

The boy was born to play calcio.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Wine Snob, Part III

Will Nason was a retired soldier who worked in my building as a government civilian. He'd been in Italy for many years, was married to an Italian woman, and lived near Verona in one of the most famous wine regions of Italy. One day someone mentioned to me that Will often bought wine for him from a winerie near his house and that it was inexpensive and excellent. So I asked Will if he could hook me up as well and he said sure. The wines that he brought were from the Valpolicella region. They included Valpolicella, Ripasso and Amarone. I had recently discovered Valpolicella thanks to Ernest Hemingway. I had read his wonderful book "Across the River and into the Trees", which takes place in Venice and the main character drinks it throughout the book. I'd never heard of Amarone but I got a quick lesson. Amarone is a very strong, full bodied wine that is not for the average wine drinker. Will brought me a bottle to try and gave me the background behind how the wine is made, how it should be served and what to eat it with. I didn't realize it at the time but my wine tastes were evolving into more serious wines and I was leaving stuff like Marzemino and Moscato behind. When I got home and asked Giampietro about Amarone he quickly agreed that yes, Amarone is a very good wine but must be drunk with care, always with red meat. I opened the Amarone that night, let it breathe for quite some time and upon the first sip I was hooked. After that I had a tremendous desire to learn more about red wine and find out what was good and what wasn't. If I liked Amarone that much, what else would I like? I had once asked Giampietro what he thought was the best wine in the world and he replied that, although it depends on your tastes, for him it was Brunello di Montalcino from the Tuscany region of Italy. It would be a while before I would finally taste my first Brunello but once I did I understood why many consider it the best red wine in the world.
I soon became a wine sponge, eager to engage people like Will and Giampietro in conversations about wine, and soaking up every little nugget that I could from them. Had I lived anywhere else the love and interest in wine probably never would have taken root but living in Italy, surrounded by some of the best wines in the world, I quickly developed a passion.

So am I a wine snob? I guess I am to some people. I don't consider myself a snob because I'm far from an expert. I just happen to have tastes in wine that are much more evolved than the average person. I sampled enough wines to know what's good and what isn't. Being in Germany has made things worse because although German wines are fine, they are nowhere the quality of the wine in countries like Italy, France, Spain, or even Australia. I get drawn into arguments with people here all the time because they have usually only ever drunk German wines so they have no idea that better wine even exists. When I try to tell them that, the wine snob label gets thrown at me. At times I wear it as a badge of honor but most of the time it gets annoying because it comes from someone who has no interest in wine.

I guess it all comes down to what an Italian friend of mine once told me:

"If the wine feels good in your mouth...this is a good wine."

In Vino Veritas.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Farewell DJ.

Being a boy and a sports fan growing up near Boston in the 80's meant a fe things; you cried in 1986 when the ball went through Buckner's legs, you proudly wore your "Squish the Fish" and "Bury the Bears" t-shirts in 1985, you spent winters playing pickup hockey on the local pond pretending to be Ray Bourque, and maybe more than anything, you tuned in night after night during basketball season to watch the Boston Celtics. The Celtics in the 80's had no shortage of stars and featured the greatest front court in the history of the NBA - Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. But those of us who watched them knew that the man that made the team go was Dennis "DJ" Johnson. On a team of superstars DJ was content to let others take the glory while he did all the little things. He was the consumate point guard and a joy to watch.

Dennis Johnson died at the young age of 52 last week of a heart attack. Thanks for the great memories you provided for me and so many other young boys who grew up idolizing those great Celtic teams of the 80's. Farewell and Godspeed DJ.