Sunday, September 29, 2013

Nosy Neighbor Night

I've been meaning to talk about the Acceptable Range of Normality for a while now.  One of the wonderful things about being an expat is the fact that this lifestyle appeals to the black sheep of the world, and while we don't always "fit in" back home, put us all together and we manage to get along pretty well.  For the most part, anyways, and that's where my hypothesis comes in.  Over the years of living overseas, I've come up with a theory I like to call the acceptable range of normality, and it goes something like this:

See, normal is a created idea.  Within any given group of personalities, there are both "boring" and "interesting" individuals, and we all fall on a continuum that ranges between "so-boring-I-want-to-chew-my-own-arm-off-because-it-would-be-less-painful-than-listening-to-you" and "when-I-say-you're-interesting-what-I-really-mean-is-that-your-quirks-are-kinda-scaring-me-and-I-think-I'll-leave-before-the-voices-in-your-head-decide-to-get-rid-of-me."  In other words, at one hand, you have walking valium, and at the other end, a walking nightmare.  The thing is that you want to have enough quirks to be interesting and endearing, but not so many that you scare small children (or adults), and the range in which you can accomplish that depends on the population you're in.
Tov Aimag vodka, erotic Mongolian painting from Geek, and Bhutanese festival mask
So in the population of expats, you've got a lot more wiggle room on the quirky side of the spectrum.  No one bats an eye if you talk about your bowel movements.  You can also have a display on top of your refrigerator like the one above, and the only thing that people will question is why you have vodka (because they know you're Mormon...and the answer is obviously that you want to collect the little bottles with the names of the provinces you've been to, and your friends are glad to drink them for you).  And although we definitely have people that fall outside the range working at our school (I won't name any names in case they find their way here at some point - if my six loyal readers want to hear stories, they know where to contact me), for the most part, we have an incredibly copacetic staff this year.
photo by the Lasagna
This is one of the reasons I decided to join the social committee this year.  I ended up planning a lot of events with my friends last year, anyways, so I figured this year I might as well do it for the school and have something to put on my resume.  As a result of some conversations that I've had with people, I ended up organizing the first (possibly annual) teachers' apartment Tour of Homes (aka, Nosy Neighbors Night).  Because it's kind of fun to visit other people's apartments and see what they've done with them.

Anyone who was interested had to provide a drink or a snack, and preferably open up their apartment, although I made this optional, since some teachers live off campus but were still interested in participating.  At the appointed hour (5 pm tonight) everyone congregated in one hallway for 15 or 20 minutes, drinking, snacking, chatting, and seeing what the participating teachers had done with their apartments.  Then we went to the next floor for about the same amount of time, moving through the building until we'd seen 13 different apartments.
also by the Lasagna - I was too busy pan-frying my flat bread to take pics.
It went over really well, even if I say so myself!  We had really good participation, and not only was it cool to see other apartments and show off your own, it was great to have a chance to socialize with teachers from across the school (nearly all of whom fall within the acceptable range of normality - phew!).  Now that we're in two different buildings, the secondary and primary teachers don't mingle as much, and activities like this give everyone a chance to get together.

That's not to say it was perfect.  There were a lot (and I mean a LOT) of desserts being served.  If we do this again next year, Engrish suggested assigning each floor a dish - salad, soup, dip, dessert, etc.  I am obviously not the most organized person in the world (I keep trying to tell people that), and I felt like I kept having to send out additional emails with information I'd forgotten before.  But I was really proud of my first attempt at organizing a school-wide social event, and happy that nobody seemed to notice the fact that I hadn't vacuumed my carpet or scrubbed my kitchen floors (which desperately needed it).

Also this weekend: another circus in UB.  The last circus I went to had me questioning if I was becoming jaded, circus-wise.  I'd seen SO many great performances in the early part of the year, and things were starting to feel passé.  I had to wonder how different this circus would be, but that didn't stop me from going.  It was originally slated to be performed at Bayangol Restaurant, with dinner and drinks served with your showgirls...yes, I said showgirls.  How different could a circus be?  This wasn't any old circus - it was the Cabaret circus, with international acts from a number of countries, including some showgirls.  I felt like the overall tone was a little more mature, but that didn't stop people from bringing their kids (once it had been moved from the Bayangol to the State Circus and the price went from 150,000 tugrugs to 20,000), including some students which I saw, and more which probably saw me, since the magician pulled me and Squeaker up to help with his act.  Was it different? Did we enjoy it???  Hell yeah.  For starters, there were a HELL of a lot more male acts in this circus, my personal favorite being the guy in the clip above.  The only female contortionist they had was a black American girl with gorgeous curves, and what she did amazed even the Mongolians.  I want you to think about that statement for a second.  This is a country where contortionism is one of their major performing arts, but what this girl did was in a different league.  She bent herself into pretzels, and then twisted them around.  It was incredible.  Squeaker's reaction - particularly to a couple of muscle-bound men who were lifting each other while only wearing tight pants - guaranteed we'll be catching the next circus that comes into town.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Grub Club: Broadway


I'm not going to lie to you: I'm kind of over the "one-size-fits-all" hodge-podge restaurants.  We've had quite enough of those in round one of this year's Grub Club, and if Coach doesn't end up taking up next week's challenge (this week he got lost...again...) I know where I'm taking us (well, one of two places I might be taking us, anyways, and both of them are very distinctive cuisines).

So when we walked past Broadway two weeks back and Squeaker said, "I think I'll take us there," I wasn't thrilled.  I wanted something adventurous, because that's what Grub Club is all about, bitches!  But far be it from me to discourage anyone (other than my students, anyways...kidding!  I love them all dearly and desperately want them to succeed), so I told her, "Yeah, you can take us there."  It was somewhere I'd never been and it probably didn't suck, so why not?

There were lots of possibilities on the menu, but everything looked REALLY heavy (no surprise there - it IS Mongolia), so most of us decided to start with a salad.  This week I thought I'd try the Greek, and Broadway did a pretty good job with it - they got all the right veggies and even had a nice, crumbly feta.  What on earth were they thinking with the dressing, though?!?  It reminded me of honey mustard and the salad was literally drenched in it.  Olive oil and balsamic, guys.  It's not that hard.
Geek went for a variety of starters.  These were her potato wedges.  She liked her salad and chicken, but hardly touched these.  They were big pieces of potato, covered with that crunchy sort of breadcrumb stuff, so there was no WAY I was helping her with them.  But this meant that she had lunch for tomorrow.

As did I.  I went for the beef lasagna, and it was okay.  It did not knock my socks off, but it was good enough that I brought it home for tomorrow's lunch, something I don't normally do.  In the background you can see Blondie's salmon steak, which she loved, giving the food yet another nine. 

What did knock my socks off was the strawberry shake I impulsively ordered after deciding I was done with dinner.  I saw one of the waitresses take one out to another table, and decided I had to try one.  It was gorgeous.  Well, when I got the right one, it was - at first she tried to serve me a chocolate one, in spite of the fact that everyone heard me say strawberry and I even pointed on the menu.  The shake alone might make Broadway my new hang-out-and-kill time place.  But that's not all, folks.  As we were filling out our record book, the live music started up - a piano and violin duet.  It was lovely, and I kind of loved the ambiance, even if it was a little quirky at times.

I actually can't believe that it's almost time for fall break.  We're six weeks into school as of tomorrow, with one more week til Geek, Engrish, and I head off for Olgii's Eagle Festival.  And that would be just another reason to stay another year - I know summer will be here before I'm ready to leave.  And Engrish keeps letting me buy plants...either she wants me to stay or she's hoping to inherit a lot when I leave.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Living Broke in the 'Baatar

Last week was fantastic.  Classes were going well, the weather was great, and I was so happy with my new friends.  I walked around singing Jason Mraz songs, because when life is that good, you HAVE to sing Jason Mraz.  If I'd had to choose whether to stay or go last week, I would stay in Mongolia another year.  And - really - I still feel that way, but after church today my song changed from, "Everything is Sound," to "O Fortuna!" from Carmina Burana.  Having your bus drive right past without picking you up when it is snowing will do that to you.  Well, since I'm an emotional eater, when I finally got a taxi I decided I was NOT in the mood to go home and cook Korean anymore, so I went to the nearby Chinese place instead, ordered my coke, started looking at the menu, and the waitress had poured half my coke into a glass before I realized what she was doing and could stop her.  Why, oh WHY would you do such a terrible thing to a coke?  (Seriously - that flattens it).  Being a little scratch-and-sniffy doesn't help, and so, in spite of the fact that I needed to go to church today (I missed the last couple of Sundays), when I got home it was with the feeling that I should have just stayed in bed.

Nothing too exciting going on this week - Engrish and I had a nice hike yesterday morning accompanied by about a billion swarming insects - so today I'd like to address the latter part of my summer.  I've already complained about being broke and alone for most of July and a little of August, and this post will give you some ideas about what to do with yourself if you end up broke and alone for the summer in UB.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that actually doing something productive such as working on lesson planning or illustrations doesn't appeal, because it sure as hell didn't appeal to me.  These are a few of the things that I did...
Pack up your hotdogs in your old backpack and hike, hike, HIKE:  I live and work in the Zaisan area, which means I see the Zaisan Memorial out my window everyday, chiding me, asking why I've only climbed it once in the last year.  Well, the obvious reason is the fact that I'm lazy as hell, but over the summer I decided to discover the best path to go up and come back down.  I nailed it on my first try.  Instead of going up the front steps, do yourself a favor and go to the back, which is more interesting visually and has a gentler slope.  Then after a good look at UB all spread out around you, take the steps down the front, but zigzag going down the stairs by moving diagonally as you descend each set...it's a little easier on the knees and a lot less scary if you have a small phobia about falling down stairs.  Bonus points for getting up early and catching cool sunrises.  And if you get bored with Zaisan, there's always the lovely hillsides of Bogd Khan National Park, on which we are all illegally squatting.
Go down to the Tuul and play in the water:  So Zaisan (and thus, my home) is just south of the Tuul River.  Throughout the summer you'll see kids and even some adults playing in the water.  Having nothing better to do, I strapped on my swimsuit and took about a 20 minute walk down to the banks.  Have I mentioned that there are times Mongolia reminds me of rural Missouri?  This is one of those times, except instead of floating down the river on the inner tubes of tractors, Mongolians find big pieces of styrofoam (possibly having blown away from construction sites) to sit on.  Even in July the water is pretty nippy, and I was trying not to get completely doused as I waded across to the other side, but the current was really strong, and just as I was almost to the other side, splash!  My feet went out from under me and I got really wet.  I had a good laugh at myself, and walked back to the other side where I stood in the nice warm sun skipping rocks (or attempting to), before laying out (if you can call it that when you're covered in SPF70 sunscreen) on my beach towel and reading.
Become a film snob:  Thanks to the facebook group, Expats in Mongolia, I learned about Indie Thursdays at Bliss Lounge.  It was my favorite thing all summer.  Not only did it introduce me to some great movies - Les Amours Imaginaires and Taking Woodstock - it was a nice way to hear a voice besides my own, and I met some pretty chill people there.  The only reason I haven't been back yet is someone (ahem, me) decided to schedule Grub Club on Thursdays while the movies were on hiatus.
Gallery Crawl:  Okay, actually, I didn't go to any galleries over the summer...too much like work.  However, there are plenty of them around UB, with some decent artwork to check out: Pearl Art Gallery, 976 Art Gallery, the Tsagaandarium, and my personal favorite (because it's next to Bangkok Restaurant), the Union of Mongolian Artists. 

And if that's not enough, you can simply hole up in your apartment with the internet for company, blog about what you're cooking, and wait for fall. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Grub Club: Ambrosia

Our newbies' grace period is over.  Tonight was the first time Blondie had to pick a restaurant.  She kept it fairly simple - we go past Ambrosia just about every time we go downtown, and they're supposed to have salsa dancing on the weekend, so she decided it was time to check it out.
Honestly, I was a little worried.  Looking through the menu, there wasn't that much I was particularly interested in.  I decided to go for their Caesar, while Engrish went for the Greek.  I think I made the better choice - mine at least looked like a Caesar, unlike Engrish's, which didn't bear any sort of resemblance to a Greek.  Has the chef ever even seen a Greek salad?  Probably not.  Does that mean it was bad?  Actually, no...in spite of the fact that it tasted nothing like a Greek, Engrish liked it a lot.  I had to say the same of the Caesar, although the green dressing was a little weird.
For my main, I went for the carbonara.  The pasta was fettuccine, which I actually never order, but it's better than spaghetti (any pasta's better than spaghetti).  The sauce was pretty good, but not in the same class as Bene Bene.  What I actually should have ordered, was this:
The spicy chicken dish that Geek chose.  It had a nice bit of kick wrapped up in a nice, flavorful sauce.  The chicken was a bit fatty-skinny, but the overall quality of the dish more than made up for it.
Whereas Blondie (predictably) went for a sandwich, which also had me going, "Ooh, that's what I should have had," when it came out.  The fact that what we ordered ended up being more appetizing when we got it than it was on the menu probably means they need to work on their menu.  Part of the issue is the fact that every item was listed in Cyrillic and English, which made it a bit of work to read through.

We were joined tonight by our first male Grubbie of the 2013-2014 school year, Coach.  He got "lost" looking for the Noodle House last week (ie, he didn't walk far enough down Peace Avenue), but he managed to find Ambrosia (in spite of the fact that Blondie never answers her phone).  He had food, and I even made Engrish take a picture of it, but you're missing out on it because I honestly have no idea what it was - he was sitting at the other end of the table.  But he made a great addition to the party, even if he has such a dry sense of humor that I'd think he was British in a former life, if I believed in reincarnation.

And speaking of things I don't believe in...if you look closely in the photo of my pasta, you'll see a very tiny vodka bottle.  No, I haven't started drinking.  However, Mongolia is famous for its vodka, and one company has very ingeniously marketed it in different bottles for each aimag (province).  Originally I was only going to buy the ones for the aimags I've visited, but I haven't been to that many, and I really like the swans on the Sukhbaatar bottle (remember last week when I mentioned I wanted to stay to see that next year?)  Fortunately I have plenty of friends who are willing to be my designated drinkers, and I have ironically become the person who may or may not have a special ingredient to add to your coke in the event that it's the first of the month.  You may well wonder what the hell I'm going to do with a collection of tiny vodka bottles.  I plan to put flowers in them, of course.  That won't be a problem for a good six months, but when spring finally gets sprung next June, I'll be ready!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Spring Forward; Fall's Back!

My last week has gone by in a cherry-coke fueled blur.  I have done really well at building good habits in the last year, and that has kind of all gone out the window.  Luckily, tomorrow is another day, Ms. Scarlett, and hey, when we've actually got cherry coke in Mongolia, can you blame me for a little...indulgence?  I've also spend quite a lot of the last 24 hours indulging my other addiction - reading.  My knickers have been in a twist ever since the most recent October Daye book came out, and I've had no way to read it - my Nook broke and it wasn't available for Nook for web yet.  I finally broke down and ordered a hard copy from Amazon (along with a bunch of other stuff that I honestly probably didn't need...), and then yesterday, I checked Evil's account, and it was ready for the web reader.  I got an hour into it before I had to meet my friends, and it was hard to convince myself that I should go have lunch with them...or dinner, rather.  We were actually trying to have a cultural experience, but after an hour and a half on the bus without making it as far as the British school, we gave up and went to have Indian instead.  Worse things have happened.  When I got home, I started reading again, and I just finished the book about an hour ago (yes, I slept.  Surprisingly).  It was excellent.  The problem, of course, is that now I have to wait another year for the next one.  :-(
Last weekend, on the other hand, was more interesting.  I've learned something new about Engrish: I don't have to ask if she wants to go to the countryside, because apparently the answer will always be yes.  I wanted to visit Amarbayasgalant Monastery, but Enkhe suggested a different option - the Tsenkher hot springs.  So off we went, with Geek in tow.  The downside to this trip was most of the driving was from UB to Kharkhorin - having seen it before makes it a little boring when you're driving for five hours.  On the upside, I got to add another animal crossing to my list - cranes, or togoruu in Mongolian.  And Geek had never seen the phallic rock in Kharkhorin (their driver wouldn't take them), while I discovered that the big phallic rock had been moved before our last adventure.  Good to have that figured out...now to just track down what happened to it.

We drove through what Lonely Planet calls the "prettiest aimag capital in Mongolia," Tsetserleg, but didn't stop.  Enkhe found the side road that he needed and started toward the hot spring.  The scenery in Arkhangai was magnificent...lots more trees and hills and rocks.   Enkhe said he thought he was lost at one point, which we didn't believe, but didn't care too much either way, because it was really that beautiful, and eventually his awesome sense of direction was proven right and we saw the ger camps surrounding the spring.

There are at least three of them there.  Two are listed in Lonely Planet, and we ended up staying at the expensive one (35,000 tugrugs a night not including food is expensive in Mongolia, although it's really only 20 bucks, and none of us minded paying for a little luxury).  Duut Resort is fairly new and looked nicer than the first one we poked our heads into.  Their food was good, although also expensive - the stir-fried beef we had for lunch was 18,000 tugrugs a plate, but it really was beef, which is always nice. 
After lunch we went for a little walk - hike seems like too strong a word - because Enkhe didn't think we were stressed enough to truly appreciate the hot springs.  We visited the source of the spring, and the water was REALLY hot.  It came out of the rock in little trickles, and there were man-made pools to catch it right there (you can see Geek sticking her finger in).  It was really soft, too, but I'm not sure what mineral gave it that quality - the only thing I've ever felt like this water was Dead Sea water, which has a sort of slippery feel (yeah, I know, it's kind of funny to call water "slippery").  I know the Tsenkher water didn't have salt in it, though.  Trust me - after foolishly opening my tortilla chips with my knife I would have known if there was salt in that water!
This is kind of the beginning of fall, here, and the color was coming up in the hillsides.  You can start to get an idea of what the forest looked like from this photo.  There were wild strawberries and some sort of other edible berry, as well as all the beautiful foliage.  After our pathetically short hike we were ready to hit the baths.  The pools were lined with stones, and it was nice sinking into a nice, hot bath...I've really missed the Korean bathhouses.  The manager on duty (I guess - he could just be their in-house English speaker) was very accommodating, and made the water hotter for us.  Their pools were segregated by gender, but there was no screen to hide you from prying eyes or splashing kids (the former wasn't a problem - we went with their "recommendation" of wearing swimsuits - but when we went in before bed there were three rowdy kids that eventually Engrish banished to the men's pool by virtue of her mad Mongolian skills and their lack of a mother in our pool).  The men that were out were playing some music, which we started singing along to, and it turned into a karaoke party featuring me and Engrish belting out Adele's best.

This trip also prompted a lot of thinking about whether I shouldn't do another year here.  There are just SO many amazing places in Mongolia, and there's no way I'm going to be able to make it to all of them.  The one I wish I had time to go to right now is Sukhbaatar aimag - they witness a huge migration of swans each year, and Engrish said it was amazing when she went.  There's also the fact that I kind of want to buy a ger.  My parents would probably NOT be thrilled with me if I brought yet another thing home to leave, but we could set it up in the corner of the field so I'd have my own little home, and the Princess, Dirt Devil, and Bunny could use it for a playhouse when they visited.  Also, I would definitely have the coolest "tent" at family reunions...if I could get my dad to agree to bring it with us!  I don't think I can afford to buy all the bits of the ger - about $5000 according to Enkhe - and ship it home this year, and this random, somewhat crazy sort of desire may fade before long.  A much more compelling argument is that both Five and Domestic Goddess both really miss Mongolia.  You get over it eventually (most of the time - there's always a little part of me still yearning for Korea), but at this point, I really love my life.  I love my students and just about all of my coworkers, I've adjusted to the changes from last year, and the negative things - first and foremost, the ridiculously cold winter - I've gotten used to (seriously...you wouldn't believe how tolerant I am of the cold.  I hardly even noticed the dung fire that the herders made for us our first night never really burned).  But we'll see.  As I've said, the world is a really big place and I haven't even begun to see it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Grub Club: The Noodle House

Mad Science made her first choice of the school year tonight and took us to The Noodle House, which is represented on the website she looked on as Japanese, while the menu says it is Chinese.  It DID have a couple of Japanese dishes, but for those of us hoping for some ramen (Blondie), it was a bitter disappointment, especially coupled with the fact that they didn't serve alcohol.
Don't let that turn you off, though - the Noodle House has much to recommend it.  Let's start with the prices, which were extremely reasonable (probably a good thing, since we've got 8 days til payday).  Then there was the fried rice.  This was Squeaker's, which I kept nibbling off of (I also nibbled off Blondie's, because I'm greedy like that).  Nights like tonight make me miss Five.  A lot. She would have LOVED this rice.  I loved this rice.  It was salty and delicious and went fantastic with a nice, cold Coke (any day now, Coca-Cola of Mongolia!)  Five would have had to have a second coke with this rice, and she would have been up all night.
The title dish - the noodles - were pretty fantastic, too.  I went for the small portion, which was more than enough to fill me up.  They were very reminiscent of the Taiwanese beef noodles that Meen took me out for in Shanghers.  Engrish and I both tried them, and proclaimed them delicious, although not quite enough to make up for the kind of shabby-chic (that's sarcasm) ambiance they had going on.
We've been to a few Chinese restaurants in town by now, and the last time we tried the seasoned cucumbers which weren't from The Bull, we regretted it.  Geek decided to give them a shot here, and they were perfect.  They had a bit of sour and salty, laced with a spicy underpinning.  
But not everything was a winner.  The pan-fried dumplings in the menu looked great, and did not resemble the ones pictured above in the least.  In fact, these had mutton in them, and after last Sunday's tsuivan (mutton and noodles) in Sansar, the smell of them was enough to stop me in my tracks.  We didn't even make a dent in them, and Engrish was concerned they weren't going to be enough (good thing somebody remembered us ordering too many dumplings when we went to Ba Shu 888!)  My doufu, on the other hand, was pretty good, although the beef that came with it was not quite right.  It was very tender...a little TOO tender, like a man that is just a little too in-touch with his feminine side.  Blondie went with her standby - chicken with peanuts, aka Kung Pao Chicken - and that was what I should have ordered.  It wasn't overly oily, and the bits of red chili were neither too big or too numerous.

Overall it was a good find - I'll definitely go back there, not least of all because it has a great location, in the block of Peace Avenue west of UB Department Store.  However, do your business before you go.  Engrish checked out their loo, and reported that it was a squatter.  Which may give you that authentic Chinese feel, but so does the runs, and I want neither of those things!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

It's a Small World (Heritage) After All

I was going to write a snarky post for this week about the characters I work with, but I decided I ought to play nice, so I'm finally publishing my UNESCO list.  At Pashupatinath Temple back in July I started wondering about the UNESCO World Heritage Sites I've been to.  Both Time Travel Turtle and Zieak have done this on their blogs, which was probably a subconscious reason I was wondering.  So, in only slightly particular order, here's my list:

United States: the Statue of Liberty
Italy: Venice and the Lagoon, the Palladian Villas of the Veneto, Padua, Verona
South Korea: Hwaseong Fortress, Changdeokgung Palace Complex, Seonjeungneung Royal Tombs
Japan: Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto
China: Imperial Palaces (the Forbidden City), Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (the Terracotta Warriors), the Great Wall, the Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple, Mt. Emei Scenic Area (because it includes the big Buddha), Classical Gardens of Suzhou, the Temple of Heaven, Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou
Bahrain: Qal'at al-Bahrain
Greece: the Acropolis, Delphi
Turkey: Historic Areas of Istanbul, Archaeological Site of Troy
Jordan: Petra, Wadi Rum Protected Area
Egypt: Giza Necropolis, Islamic Cairo, Theban Necropolis (Valley of the Kings and other funerary temples), Thebes (Luxor)
India: Humayun's Tomb, Qutub Minar, Khajuraho, Agra Fort, Fatephur Sikri, Taj Mahal
France: Paris' Banks of the Seine
England: Westminster, the Tower of London
Peru: Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Nazca Lines, the Historic Center of Lima
Chile: Rapa Nui National Park (Easter Island)
Mongolia: Orkhon Valley Cultural LandscapePetroglyphs of the Mongolian Altai
Nepal: the Kathmandu Valley, Basantapur Durbar Square (Kathmandu), Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Pashupatinath, Bodhnath Stupa, Maru Hiti, Swayambhunath
Cambodia: Angkor Wat

Which puts me at 54 World Heritage Sites.  Not too shabby, for someone who wasn't trying.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Grub Club: Revolution


Today is a day that I hoped Grub Club would never see.  Today we went to a restaurant that was "discovered" by a colleague who would come far below Al Qaeda on my list of dinner invitees, because, frankly, I'd have more to talk to them about and I'd feel less sleazy afterwards.  This person tried to take credit for discovering the Shashlik House, but not until tonight could he claim to have had any influence on us.  That's because he makes me want to vomit, and just about everyone that I hang out with knows exactly how full of shit he is, and has almost as little tolerance for him as I do (precisely none).  But several people that I DO enjoy hanging out with have been to Revolution, largely because of said Sleazoid, and this led Geek to decide this would be her choice for this week's grub club.  Shouts go to her FOR BREAKING OUR DAMN STREAK!!!  >sarcasm<

I'm not a tolerant person.  I never claimed to be.  I try not to let my dislike of people make me do mean things, other than a vague sort of exclusivity when it comes to the people with whom I'd like to have dinner (or, you know, talk to for more than one sentence).  But when somebody tells one of my friends that people don't invite them to do things because they think she only hangs out with me, it tends to make me a bit tetchy.  So if the lovely wife of this person is reading my blog (she may be, she asked for the address a while back), please don't be offended by my comments.  I think you're awesome, but I don't want him to have anything to do with my dinner club, because he kind of makes me feel gross.

But anyways.

So Revolution it was for tonight.  I think revolution was meant to be a theme as well as their name, because there were pictures of Bastille in the room where we were seated.  It wasn't particularly revolutionary, except that they seem to be the final bastion for smokers in UB; as we were wrapping up our meal smoke was wafting over the air, which may explain why he is so keen on the place.  The food took forever to be served, and when we were trying to order the waiter wandered off before we could all order.  We had to call him back twice before we all got our requests in.  Ordering a drink seemed to throw him off...but then again, perhaps it was the fact that we wanted starters AND mains (and who needs that much food???)

Whatever the case may be, it took some doing to get our order in.  I thought I might make it for the first Indie Thursday at Bliss in about a month, but we were still waiting for food at 20 til eight, which is bad considering we all there by 5 after six.  And, sad to say, I didn't think the food was worth the wait, although Blondie gave her burger an outstanding nine.
Most of us started with a salad.  Engrish's was supposed to have all sorts of delicious things in it, but came out without the noodles or...something else it was supposed to have.  Not a great start.  Her main course, the jerk chicken, came out at the same time, and while it was good, it was not as spicy as she would have liked.  Also, she was finished with all of her food before the rest of us had gotten any of ours.

My Greek salad came with way too much lettuce and not any feta (pita cheese, according to the menu) at all.  I can make a nicer Greek salad with my eyes closed.  Blondie's chili chicken salad, on the other hand, was a savory blend of flavors with just the right amount of kick and Squeaker's Caesar was great, with nice big shavings of parmesan cheese.  Her satay chicken was disappointing, though - no peanut sauce.  Instead, it had sweet and sour chili sauce. The lasagna was the talk of the girls last week, so I went for that as a main.  It didn't suck, but it had a slightly strange flavor blended into the mix, like someone was trying to make it taste a little more Italian sausagey without actually having the right herbs.  I'll stick with Veranda's lasagna for my money, even if it means waiting and waiting for a seat.
I decided early on that the ice cream and hot brownie would make a great dessert, and it wasn't bad, but it crumbled a lot more than I would have liked.  I think what I was really craving was Bene Bene's chocolate fondant cake, which I guess means I'm going to have to make it back to Le Bistrot Français one of these days, since it's just about as close as you can get without a ticket to Shanghers.

However, this could have been the worst grub club on record* and it would have been a great day for me.  The ironically named Good Price has cherry coke again - cue the Hallelujah chorus!  It's a little late for me to bring it to Mother Rock, but considering how that wish turned out, it would have been a waste of precious ambrosia anyway, so that's all for the best.  However, we are heading out to the countryside this weekend, and since we are planning to strongarm Enkhe into stopping by the stone phallus in Kharkhorin along the way (when she went to Kharkhorin, Geek's driver wouldn't take her), maybe I can find a better use for it.  Regardless, it's going to be a great weekend.

*it isn't.  That honor still remains with Fearless Leader, even if his feckless ass unfriended me for some unknown reason.  However, I do feel that the association with aforementioned Sleazoid did cause a drop in the ratings for Geek.