experiment: tapas

I have no idea why it took me so long to come around to tapas. It was probably my holier-than-thou, Sex and The City trend-bucking, the same philos steering me clear of Magnolia Bakery (which I eventually broke down and visited after a year of NYC residency. Nothing but a pile of mediocre frosting. Billy’s is much better, though Yummy’s in LA takes the cupcake-cake).

I just have a harder time trusting trendy foods, esp. anything immortalized by SatC or Hitch (Rice to Riches, I’m talking to you). Yet, in my quest to become the ultimate foodie it’s often necessary to experiment with all sorts of foods, even trendy/novelty items. Sometimes those experiments prove fruitful, and sometimes you end up with a mouthful of something that has the same texture as a wet towel.

My formal introduction to tapas started with mega-chef José Andrés’ Zaytinya, the apotheosis of small-plate dining smack in the heart of our nation’s capital. Jared and I had gone to a rehearsal dinner the day before at Andrés’ other DC restaurant, Café Atlantico. After an amazing three-hour lunch complete with banana foam(?) for dessert, we were hooked. We decided to try out his more reputable Zaytinya the next night.

The Tapa, as explained to us by our way-too-old-to-be-a-waiter waiter, was the brainchild of a Spanish king—sort of a cookie to his milk. Or wine, in this case. The king would stick a piece of bread or the like over the top of the wine jug to keep out the flies and other impurities. This protocork eventually evolved beyond breads and other yeasty nibbles into the much more intricate and delicious offerings you’ll find on modern tapas menus. They did stay on the small side though. Gourmet appetizers, really. Which, as someone who toggles between menu items for hours before ordering and always likes to try a bit of everything, is my DREAM setup.

And it doesn’t hurt that Andrés’ wildly inventive fares also happen to be freakin incredible. Here’s what we chose:

Cerkez Tavugu
shredded chicken in a walnut-cilantro sauce
(Walnut-cilantro. Brilliant)

Kabak Köftesi
squash-golden raisin fritters, walnut pistachio sauce

Octopus Santorini
grilled baby octopus, marinated onions, capers , yellow split pea puree
(great, though my least favorite. I grew up hating seafood. Mostly because I grew up in a land-locked state).

Crispy Skirt Steak
cucumber-radish cacik, green chili zhoug sauce
(like the heaven and hell of steak – cool and then BAM – fire).

Peynirli Pide
Turkish tomato sauce with cinnamon and oregano, covered in haloumi cheese
(CINNAMON in pizza sauce. Whoa!)

I seriously licked the plates clean. And ever since I’ve been on a major tapas trip.

Martine, an atmospherically-wow restaurant in downtown SLC, also happens to win the Adrienne’s Favorite Tapas award.

Fried Shepherds Goats Cheese with Caramelized Sweet Onions and Lillet-Orange Blossom Honey Glaze

Pretentious-sounding name aside, mmmmmm. Crispy honey outside, warm and soft and cheesy inside. Perfect in so many ways. Please do yourself a favor and get it. I’m convinced the Gaza Strip would be a safer and more loving place if they would spend their time making these instead of C-4-lined vests.

what I have learned:

Sometimes food is appropriately hyped. I suppose. Know of anything I should try?

If you’re going to take a date to a tapas restaurant, make sure you really enunciate when you’re explaining your plans, or they will hear “topless restaurant.” And then they will be let down when they realize their misunderstanding.
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experiment: editing a novel

There was a wild and brief point in my life when I thought I wanted to be a book editor. Nothing sounded fabber than sitting in a NYC publishing office all day reading novels. Clearly, I didn't pursue this past my high school lit-mag days. And good thing. I'm convinced copywriting is much more challenging and fun, and brings home much more bacon. Yes, literal bacon. What can I say, I love breakfast for dinner.

I still enjoy the occasional editing gig, though. I've edited (uh, rewritten?) all sorts of scribble (grad papers, applications, short stories, love letters . . . break-up letters) but the prospect of editing a novel, for a good chunk of money, for someone I don't know personally, was yes, kind of a trip. Let me disclaim: I'm not a professional editor, nor have I ever taken any kind of editing class. I can offer no formal qualifications, other than, "Yeah, I can do it. Totally." Confidence will get you most anywhere.

As Sara (not her real name) was narrowing down her list of possible editors she decided to have the three finalists undergo the "audition" process. She sent along the first ten pages of her 298-page working draft.

It was an editor's wet dream and nightmare. Horrible. Tripe.

On the one hand, that means you feel useful as an editor. Your mission is clear. You get to swipe away at the manuscript freely, marking it up until your margins are crowded red. On the other hand, that means you spend an hour reconstructing something that will for all intents, never get published. The narrative struggled. The imagery struggled. The usage struggled. I struggled.

Random Excerpt:

“'I love it! It is so beautiful Timothy', she spoke gently a little overwhelmed by its beauty, and the wonderful craftsmanship.

'I love it!'

He said nothing. He grabbed her hardly, and kissed her with passion and lust.

'Its beauty does not compare to the sight that stands before me now', he replied kissing her again.

The men outside finally pulled the last piece of Hannah’s luggage from atop the carriage to the ground. They anxious to settle in town, rent a room, and go to the saloon, where they would fall down drunk by the end of the night. They wait patiently, for Timothy to return outside, and pay for their service, as Hannah promised he would.

Seriously! Stephanie Meyer hits pay dirt and all of a sudden every amateur author in Utah is empowered and starts churning out the crap. I did some quick math, and realized that at this impossible pace, the pay would come to about 3 bucks an hour.

I came to this realization after I had already ripped the thing to shreds, so I just sent her my revisions anyway. She wrote back a few days later and said she knew she needed to fix some things before she could actually hire an editor, but that yes, she would keep my email address handy when that time came.

What I also realized (in between thoughts of "is this a joke?" and "is English her first language?") was that, most likely, I had been totally punkd. Probably by some supremely wily 7th-grader who solicited semi-pro work before turning in a short story for her English class. Which story I (and two others) had eagerly rewritten for her. It's actually pretty genius. I had to give her some manipulation points.

What I have learned:

I am now terrified to ever send out a substantial manuscript, for fear that editors will have a similar reaction to my work.

Craigslist can't be trusted. Any person named Adrienne can tell you that much.
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