Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday Dine Out: Carrabba's Italian Grill

One of the things we try to emphasize to our members in Weight Watchers is the importance of "taking care of yourself." I'm always amazed at the number of new members who tell me about having just taken care of a dying parent or spouse, of having spent several years as a stay-at-home parent, of having put everyone else's needs ahead of their own. It's difficult for many of us to say, hey, it's my turn - I need to concentrate on myself for a while. But it's an important first step on the road to living a healthier life.

As I say, although I deliver this message each week, I don't always "walk the walk." As a school employee as well as a WW leader, I find myself putting others first a lot. So one of the best decisions I've made in the past year in the category of "taking care of myself" was my decision to give up my Wednesday night WW class and devote that evening to me. Just allowing myself that one selfish evening in the middle of the working week has really helped my overall mental health!

Although I have been continuing my Wednesday nights out, I haven't been recording my dining experiences of late, mainly because I've been revisiting some I've already reported on - and enjoying them! Terminal Brew House, the Meeting Place, Niko's ...

But tonight I went someplace "new." I actually had eaten at Carrabba's when they first opened (which I was stunned to learn from my server was 7 years ago!) I hadn't been overwhelmed - it was kind of pricey for what I got, and the portions were superhuman sized. But our local paper recently profiled them in their Dining Out section, and I decided it was try to give them another go. So glad I did.

Carrabba's has built their restaurant around the open kitchen. You can see all the action wherever you sit, which is fun. But you can also sit practically IN the kitchen - as you can see above. And that's where I chose to dine tonight - I was actually sitting on that far left stool.

It was the perfect spot for a solo diner. It was very entertaining to watch all the action in the kitchen - the squabbling among the wait staff, the kitchen manager berating the lead cook for too much theatricality, the jockeying for position among the line cooks - nearly a reality show! I was there fairly early, so the kitchen wasn't too busy - but you could see the food prep - the mixing of the pastas and sauce, the chickens grilling, the mussels being heaped in a bowl. The chef even let me sample a few dishes!

I chose one of their signature dishes, the Chicken Bryan:

I had the 1/2 portion - so only a half chicken breast, which was perfect for me. It's covered in goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes - yum! - with a side of cavatappi amatriciana. Very nicely seasoned, and the two dishes really complemented each other well. I started with a tossed "Italian" salad, with freshly baked bread and dipping sauce. And I also sipped a "nice Chianti"(!). It was a really lovely meal!

I was glad I re-discovered Carrabba's. A fun place for a solo diner, a really nice meal that wasn't too much or too expensive. It will definitely not be another seven years before I visit again!

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

I'm such a delinquent

I've been terrible about updating this blog of late. Part of it is laziness, part of it is my addiction to the other social networking sites. I've been spending a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook - and I can only spread myself so thin.

Today was graduation day. My 27th! It was another hot, humid day - uncomfortable despite the school's attempt to thwart it by scheduling the event at 8:30 am. Now, don't think I've become cynical or inured to the day - it was lovely. So many back stories - the boys who barely, barely made it. Those that I had never set eyes on nor even heard their name. Those who I'd spent more time with than their families. And realistically - you always think, Oh, I'll miss that one, or I hope that one stays in touch. But they move on - and so do we.

We march and sit in order of seniority - I'm on the front row now! - and I usually maneuver things so that I sit between two of my long-term colleagues. One teaches many of the seniors in his history electives, and has clear-eyed observations on them. The other is dean of students and, thus, knows most of them. I know almost all of the graduates, as most have to use the library at some point in their careers. But there are always a few that are total strangers to me. So it's fun to exchange remarks with these friends as the grads march across the stage to collect their diplomas. (Oh, you think we're just watching enraptured? Hardly!) Some of my favorite quips from today

"Oh, that kid totally sucks."
"He has a really hot mom. She's wearing a cheetah-print outfit today"
"Boy, he's so lucky to graduate. I mean, really really lucky"
"I find him quite intellectually arrogant"
"Why doesn't he have socks on?"
On a set of triplets: "Amazing. They got one brain split three ways"
"They ought to just label those two the "Lax Bros"

One of the most unusual highlights was the speech from our Board chair. He called his speech "Beer and Tequila shooters" - and was a caution about using fake i.d.s to purchase alcohol. He said he didn't support the 21-year-old limit on drinking, but it is the law, so don't use a fake id. His remarks included this gem: "Remember. Nothing good happens after midnight"

It did have an affect on me - I came home and made a pitcher of margaritas!


Saturday, May 01, 2010

How to prevent mosquito bites

So, I've often wondered why I don't get bitten by mosquitoes. No, I mean really - they will attack everyone around me, yet leave me untouched. I have been told it's because I'm not sweet (me??), but scientists have begun investigating just why mosquitoes are more attracted to some people. According to this report:

Some scientists suggest that certain characteristics attract mosquitoes, thereby leading us to have more bites than others. Some of the top candidates: the amount of carbon dioxide in the breath, pregnancy, body temperature, alcohol and odorant markers based on blood type.

But, I think I've found a more likely culprit: quinine. Quinine is used in the treatment of malaria (which is, of course, carried by mosquitoes.)In fact, legend has it that it was the British who first introduced quinine into tonic water during their period of occupancy in India in order to keep their soldiers healthy. And those wily Brits then invented the gin and tonic. Refreshing, alcoholic AND medicinal!

So, I was interested to come across this recent study:

Taste aversion to quinine in mosquitoes: The taste of human skin surely influences whether a mosquito will bite and take a blood meal, but little is known about the taste world of mosquitoes, the major carrier of malaria. Our study tested the taste response of mosquitoes to the bitter compound quinine. The researchers measured the amount of sugar water mosquitoes drank while taste receptors on their feet were stimulated with quinine. Quinine decreased the amount that the mosquitoes drank. Knowing what does not taste good to mosquitoes could help us inhibit the spread of malaria by finding ways to make human skin distasteful. Funded by the Gates Foundation GCE

Now, my friends know that I love my vodka tonics. Perhaps the quinine has built up in my system, and now my skin tastes like it to mosquitoes. Hence, I never get bit!

So, drink up! It will save you from mosquito bites!

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