Thursday, July 24, 2008

Nerd Prom: Play Ball!

At 2:55pm, Mr. Scoop and I made our way to the shuttle stop to await the bus to the convention center. We briefly considered walking the whole mile to go pick up our badges and check out the Preview Night exhibitions, but then we realized that there would be sunlight and and energy expenditure to contend with. A small queue of 20 or so had already begun to form at the shuttle stop as we approached. It was unusually bereft of individuals dressed in Power Ranger or other costumed get-ups, which made us first concerned that we were in the wrong line. However, the bus soon arrived and it turned out we were where we needed to be. We embarked and arrived to the convention center about 5 minutes later.

Although there were vast groups of people around the entrance to the center and more and more throngs coming from across the streets, entrance into the center was surprisingly easy. Last year, when we arrived to get our badges on the day of the convention proper (Thursday), we had to wait for about 45 minutes, maybe an hour, in a line that wrapped around the entirety of the building. The only wrinkle to our entry was the convention staffer who admonished Mr. Scoop for smoking, on the public sidewalk, and directed him to the official designated smoking area...two feet to the left. Yay, Authority! Good luck enforcing that tomorrow when the whole nut of a quarter million people descend on you, Mr. Rent-a-cop.

Once inside, we quickly got our badges and bags of promo materials and whatnot. We wondered what we should do next. To our left, about a hundred or so people sat in a penned off queue that was monitored by security staff. "My God", wondered Mr. Scoop aloud, "that many people have already gotten in trouble for smoking in nondesignated areas?" "No, no", the officer replied. "They're just waiting to get onto the exhibition floor. The doors to that won't open until 6pm."

It was just 3:15 now.

So we followed what appeared to be the only prudent course in the situation: retreat to a bar for burgers, shots and beer. Watch the Red Sox beat the Seattle Mariners in extra innings. Then roll back over to the convention center with a comfortably numbing bubble of boozy goodness, which would make the inevitable brush with cosplay geeks easier to deal with. We arrived back at the center at 6:10pm and entered the exhibition floor without difficulty. It would seem that the penned up convention goers that sat awaiting this moment had already been released safely to the floor. However, we did notice that the major line that we had wanted to avoid when picking up badges had started to form by the time we got back to the center. It stretched a good ways down the side and around the building. God only knows what it will look like today when the convention officially opens.

Here's some pictures from yesterday. Note how big the crowds already are:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Comic Con: Even Nerds Need To Eat

There are terrifying things to be found at Comic Con. For example, you might encounter a costumed individual that appears to be wearing the best Jabba the Hutt outfit ever but, upon closer approach, turns out to be Fat Black Wonder Woman.

You need a strong stomach to get through the week. And that stomach needs food.

However, even more terrifying than Fat Black Wonder Woman is the prospect of finding meals for two in the general downtown and Gaslamp district areas that surround the Convention Center that are reasonably priced. Hell, you certainly can't eat at the hotel - especially for breakfast. The orange juice that seems complimentary turns out to actually be $8 when you get the bill; the waitstaff don't even have the decency to put any vodka in it at that hour. Bastards.

So, it was with much delight that Mr. Scoop and I found a lovely little taco joint on Union Street today that fed us both for about $10 including beverages: Taco Express.

I had the fish taco platter. Mr. Scoop got the carne asada taco platter. Both came with refried beans and rice along with soda or water for $4.95 a piece.

Mr. Scoop's carne asada looked pretty typical. Fried beef with shredded lettuce, a little pico de gallo and some guacamole. He found it quite good, especially for the price. My fish taco contained two strips of breaded and fried white fish of some sort, lettuce and pico de gallo. I must admit that I was a trifle dubious about fried fish in a taco, but this really rocked. The fish was fresh and mild. It wasn't greasy at all. I spiked the taco with a little hot sauce and went to town. I will definitely partake of the fried fish taco again.

Meanwhile, we've got a bit of time left to kill before the convention will let people inside to get badges for Preview Night. So, I'm just going to have to do my best to find something to do until then.

Greetings From Command Central

It is morning in San Diego.

We arrived at about 8:30pm Pacific Daylight Time yesterday. This means that in real time it was 11:30pm. All I had eaten since about 2 o'clock that afternoon was a handful of cheddar Combos and enough Diet Coke to wire an elephant. By the time we landed, if the line didn't move at a rate that I would deem quick enough, I'm fairly certain that I would be able to shift my molecules to a vibrational frequency that would have allowed me to phase through the side of the aircraft. I would have been in the parking lot and in a taxi before security knew what was happening. But then I would have had to go back for Mr. Scoop and that would have queered the whole deal. Mr. Scoop has no real sense of direction and would have been unable to find the parking lot - and therefore finally been able to smoke - without assistance. There would have been a "scene" that would have involved heated words like, "nicotine fit" and "homeland security" and, possibly, "ouch, Godammit, don't you know who I am?" and the, later, handcuffs and tears.

Mr. Scoop had lasted the whole flight on one piece of nicotine gum and the vivid fantasies of what he wanted to do to the squalling brat four rows ahead of us in first class. As funky and fucked up as I felt, it was paramount to put his needs before my own. I got him off the plane and to the safety of the parking lot so he could smoke without incident.

As it was, by the time we finally got to the hotel, checked in and upgraded our rooms (yes, we will have an ocean view this year) and finally got down to the bar to eat, I ate enough that you'd think that I really had been running around all Flash-like at Mach 2 and needed to desperately replenish my energy reserves. We stumbled, satiated and happy, to our hotel room and passed out around 11:30pm PDT.

This morning I'm up and sipping contentedly at a Diet Coke while Mr. Scoop tries to figure out the coffee machine that came with the room. The couple next door have just finished a brief, but noisy bout of what may have been sex. I don't really care about the noise. After being disturbed last year by the constant noise of construction and public transportation trolleys, I'm too mellowed out by the view to really care about cries of "Spank me, Dave!" from the room next door. Preview night for the comic convention is later tonight. There will be far, far more disturbing sights and sounds awaiting me there. For now, I'm just going to enjoy the view.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Touching The Tiny

What is sloth?

Sloth is having been on vacation for about three and a half weeks and realizing that, because Mr. Scoop has purchased an Asus Eee laptop computer - a machine so wee that the length of the keyboard is barely that of my hand, I have spent more of that time sitting around in my pajamas on the couch with the television on for background noise surfing teh intertrons than I have in any state that has involved being showered or wearing street clothes.

I wish I somehow felt shame because of this. That would entail sobriety, however. And this is vacation. Mr. Scoop brings home booze daily (some of it is even for me) and there are internet sites that will deliver me food. I haven't quite gotten to a full out Depends level of indolence; I like to believe that Mr. Scoop will have the decency to wrap me in a tarp at that point and leave me by a dumpster. It's the only kind thing to do really.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Tastes Like Chicken

...because it is chicken.

I don't know if you've noticed, but it's pretty damn hot out.

A lot of people try to solve the dilemma of feeding themselves in the summertime, while at the same time not heating up the kitchen, by grilling outdoors. Unfortunately, as nifty as the condo is, we don't have room for a grill on the little balcony off the kitchen. Sure, we could put one in the garage and wheel it out into the communal driveway whenever we wanted to cook; but I know that if I have to move my car every time I want to cook I will never use the grill. It just won't happen.

So this recipe borrows from a lot of other folks. I was intrigued by the idea of Chicken Rice, a traditional chicken recipe that I watched Tony Bourdain try on No Reservations. It seemed simple enough: poach a chicken, use the resulting broth to cook the rice, serve the chicken over the rice with some veggies. Done.

I think it was poaching the chicken that appealed to me. I'd watched Kylie Kwong do it on her show. You make a really flavorful poaching liquid and add the chicken. Then you turn off the heat and walk away for 3 hours. No muss, no fuss and, most importantly, your kitchen stays cool.

The following recipe is not Singaporean Chicken Rice, but it is tasty. I particularly like the addition of crisp pieces of chicken skin that I topped the dish with. This happened primarily because Mr. Scoop was freaked out by the appearance of the skin when I took the chicken out of the poaching liquid. It was kind of brownish gray and I had planned on discarding it. But then I remember that crispy skin is the best part of any chicken meal, so I reserved it to crisp up for garnish at the end.

Not Chicken Rice

For the chicken:

5 quarts of cold water
1 head of garlic, peeled and bruised
1 large onion, quartered (leave the skin on)
1 cup of sliced ginger (leave the skin on)
10 sprigs of Italian parsley
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 Turkish bay leaves (or 1 small Californian one)
1 1/2 T. coarse sea salt
1 T. black peppercorns
1 3.5-4 lb. chicken, giblets and visible fat removed

For green papaya slaw:

1/2 green papaya, seeded and coarsely shredded
juice from 1 lime
3 T. fish sauce
1 T. sugar
2 t. chile paste
1 minced raw garlic clove
2 scallions, sliced finely
2-3 T. cilantro, chopped

For the rice:

1 cups of jasmine rice, rinsed thoroughly and drained for 15 minutes
2 cups of the broth leftover after cooking the chicken

For sauce over the chicken:

5 T. broth from cooking the chicken
juice of a 1/2 lime (about 2 T.)
3 minced garlic cloves (saved from cooking the chicken)
2 t. chile paste (I like sambal oelek)
1/2-1 T. fish sauce (depending on your taste)
1/4 t. toasted sesame oil

To assemble the dish:

1. Place the first nine ingredients of the chicken poaching list into a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Turn it down to a simmer and let them steep together for about 15 minutes. Then bring everything back to a boil. Add the chicken. If the chicken does not want to stay submerged, weight it with a heatproof plate. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let it cook for 15 minutes. Then turn the heat off and leave it to sit for 3 hours.

2. Meanwhile, make the green papaya slaw: combine all 8 ingredients in a nonreactive bowl and mix well. Refrigerate until you're ready to serve.

3. After 3 hours, remove the chicken from the cooking liquid with tongs. Let it drain and cool. Then remove the skin from the chicken, reserving it for late use. Shred the meat from the chicken and set it aside, discarding bones and any fat still clinging to the meat.

4. Strain and defat the cooking liquid. Measure out 2 cups for the rice and 5 tablespoons for the sauce. Reserve the remaining liquid for other purposes, like soup (I froze my leftover broth).

5. Make the rice: bring 2 cups chicken broth to a boil and add 1 cup jasmine rice. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and let cook for 15-20 minutes (or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender).

6. Make the sauce: whisk together all 6 sauce ingredients.

7. Crisp the chicken skin: Cut the reserved chicken skin into 2 inch pieces. Season the pieces with salt and pepper. Heat a nonstick pan over medium high heat. Add the chicken pieces 4 or 5 at a time (don't crowd the pan). Cook until brown and crispy. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Repeat until all the skin is cooked.

8. To serve, mound some of the cooked rice into a bowl. Top with cooked chicken, a spoonful or two of the sauce and a couple pieces of chicken skin, spooning some of the green papaya slaw alongside of the rice.

Serves 4.