cajun crawfish boil

Since we are in the throes of crawfish season (which lasts from January to June), I decided to do this post. Crawfish (or crayfish or crawdaddy, as they’re known in other parts of the country) are little shellfish that resemble tiny lobsters. Here in the dirty South, we call them crawfish. They are little “mudbugs” that live in the swamps, and yes, while this sounds disgusting, they are actually delicious when cooked Cajun-style.

First, let’s define Cajun cuisine. Often, it’s confused with Creole cuisine, but there is, in fact, a difference per se. The Creoles were wealthy planters who settled in southern Louisiana with their European chefs, thus it is a food of aristocracy. Using Old World techniques on indigenous ingredients, Creole cuisine was born. Bouillabaisse, native to Provence, gave way to gumbo; the Spanish paella was the basis for jambalaya; and so on.

The Cajuns, on the other hand, descended from the Acadian refugees. They were less aristocratic and more agrarian; they cooked simple “one pot” dishes for mere sustenance. Cajun food is usually characterized by such ingredients as wild game, seafoods, wild vegetables and herbs. Ingredients from nearby swamps, woods, and bayous are typical things found in the Cajun black iron pot.

Today, many Creole and Cajun foods have blended into a melting pot, if you will, of southern Louisiana. One things’ for sure, though: it’s an American cuisine from the South like no other.

A crawfish boil is an event native to Louisiana but over the years has spread to most of the deep South (like my native Houston), and now, it can even be found in California, Colorado, and D.C. But because I’m a Southern girl, I don’t trust eatin’ crawfish nowhere but down he’e. What’s unique and fun about a crawfish boil is the atmosphere. Not only are you grubbin’ on good food, but you do it outside on a picnic table covered with newspaper or butcher paper. You do it over beer. You do it with your bare hands. (Or if you’re prissy like me, with plastic or latex gloves.) Most importantly, you do it with good company–it is NOT to be eaten alone. The crawfish and all the fixin’s are poured straight from the pot onto the middle of the table, and everyone grabs from the steaming pile of awesome goodness.

This recipe is based on one I got from a former coworker who has French roots from southern Louisiana. Whether she’s Creole or Cajun, I have yet to determine, but either way, this recipe is pretty tasty. She and her family do a crawfish boil every year for about a hundred friends and family. I, of course, scaled down the servings and tweaked it a little, but remember that you need to do this with a group. Also, it’s like a half day affair, so make sure you have lots of energy. I haven’t held a crawfish boil myself since 2008 because the purging, cooking, and especially the cleaning up have been too much for this tired soul. But when the best restaurants around town sell crawfish for $7+ per pound, a little DIY is something to consider.

Crawfish

Crazy Cajun crawfish

Recipe: Cajun Crawfish Boil

Summary: From the Melancons of southern Louisiana

Ingredients

  • 30-40 lbs. live crawfish
  • 3 lemons, halved
  • 2.5 tbsp. cayenne pepper
  • 6 med. onions, halved
  • 9 unpeeled garlic heads
  • 1.5 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2.5 tbsp. Louisiana brand hot sauce
  • 1/2 to 1 lg. pkg. Louisiana brand crab/seafood boil powder
  • 12 oz. cans pineapple slices
  • 10 med. red potatoes
  • 1 lg. pkg. button mushrooms
  • 2 lbs. sausage links
  • 30 sm. frozen corn on the cob
  • 1/2 canister of salt

Instructions

  1. Crawfish must be purged before cooking to rid the shellfish of dirt and impurities: an hour before cooking, dump live crawfish into a lg. bin and rinse with water. Dump water and repeat. Refill bin with enough water to cover crawfish. Add half the salt canister and stir.
  2. Fill the pot’s basket with crawfish. Place the basket inside the pot and fill pot with water to cover crawfish. Remove basket and note the water level. Dump water and refill pot to the noted water level.
  3. Heat water to rolling boil. Add Louisiana powder, squeezed lemons plus their rinds, minced garlic, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, and pineapple slices plus juice.
  4. Dump crawfish into bin. Rinse 2 more times.
  5. Dump crawfish, potatoes, onion halves, and garlic heads into basket. Hose down.
  6. When water reaches rolling boil, carefully lower basket into pot. Bring back to rolling boil, and then time for 4 min.
  7. After 4 min., turn off fire. Add corn, sausages, and mushrooms. Let stand for at least 20 min. The longer it soaks, the spicier the batch.

Quick Notes

Cook the crawfish outdoors using the same pot, basket, and propane burner used for deep-fried turkey.

Many people say the larger the better, but I like medium-sized crawfish best because: (1) they’re easier to peel, and (2) they soak up the spices better.

Use andouille or boudin sausage for an authentic Cajun boil.

Avoid eating the crawfish with straight tails: they went into the pot already dead and could contain harmful bacteria. Stick with the curled tails.

Dipping sauces: I like to eat my crawfish straight up without any dipping sauces as I prefer to taste the essence of the spices. But many people enjoy it with various condiments. The ones I often see are: (1) salt and pepper with fresh lemon juice; (2) mayo mixed with Sriracha (or rooster) hot sauce; and (3) Creole seasoning mixed with fresh lemon juice.

This recipe should serve approx. 10.

Variations

The longer the crawfish soak after turning off the fire, the spicier they will be. Soak for a minimum of 20 min.

My favorite crawfish restaurant in Houston is The Boiling Crab. They seem to use a ton of minced garlic on their crawfish, which I may try to emulate next time by upping my minced garlic by ten or something. If you get to this before I do, let me know how it is.

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

Microformatting by hRecipe.

3 girls with nmo conquer the disease and, ostensibly, the world

When I first met Erin and Jenna and their husbands back at the first NMO Patient Day of 2010, we instantly clicked, and over dinner at an Italian eatery, the idea was born. It had started as a joke when my husband, John (who is a tech geek), mentioned that we should start a blog called the Three NMOs, a play off the “Three Amigos.” Well, the name may not have stuck but the blog idea sure did.

And so I introduce to you our NMO Diaries blog, an online space where the three of us ambitious and [relatively] young girls show how we try to live life to the fullest in spite of the Devic’s dianosis. It’s sort of a “I am NMO woman; hear me roar!” type of attitude, and we welcome your readership. The cool thing about it is it will contain a lot of videos (read: vlog) since Erin and Jenna prefer to leave the written word to me. The other cool thing is the name behind the Blind Cook is revealed. (Yikes! Enjoy.

the best indian food in houston

Gourmet India
13155 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77077
281-493-5435


5/5 samosas


Chicken tikka masala

Chicken tikka masala

I first discovered Indian food when my college roommate unpacked tupperwares filled with brightly colored edibles into our mini-fridge in our dorm room. When my roommate missed the comforts of her mama’s home cookin’, all she had to do was pop a tupperware into the microwave, and volia, there was mama’s curried potatoes, cauliflower, spinach, chickpeas…

She was always kind enough to offer me some, and I nibbled only with reserve, feeling guilty for taking her mama’s food. But I enjoyed the bursts of flavor and spices that Indian food had to offer. My palate only grew more adventurous after college when I was finally making my own money and could afford tasting different cuisines. I found myself craving Indian food whenever I thought about my friend’s midnight snacks, the aromatic herbs wafting out from beneath the crack of our door and filling the hallway with delightful pungency.

“Where can I find good Indian food?” I asked another friend once I moved back to Houston post-graduation.

The best Indian food in Houston, she told me, was actually only blocks from my home. Gourmet India, an unassuming restaurant located in an abandoned strip mall where the dollar theater I used to frequent as a child sits as either a modified Bollywood theater or a vacant storefront, cooks up some of the best Indian food I’ve ever had. True, I didn’t grow up with an Indian mama, and true, I’ve probably eaten in less than a dozen south Asian restaurants, but nothing has beat Gourmet India’s dishes. Seriously.

My father only discovered the place recently after my husband and I took him there. It’s a shame that after 20+ years of living in the same house, he only now got to eat at this fine restaurant which is literally down the street.

Naan

Naan--flatbread you eat with your right hand (not your left--it's custom)

The dishes I tend to order are:

  • naan, the popular Indian flatbread used to scoop bites of other dishes into your mouth
  • saag paneer, a spinach and paneer cheese dish which, due to its creaminess, goes great with naan
  • chicken tikka masala, another creamy dish made with grilled chicken and tomato sauce
  • the basmati rice which, here, is made with almonds and peas–a family favorite

All the dishes I’ve gotten here have not been a disappointment. If you prefer to try a little of everything, lunch is often an all-you-can-eat buffet Of course, you can always order my staples; I’m almost positive you won’t be disappointed. I’ve learned to make chicken tikka masala at home (though it’s not as good as Gourmet India’s), but for the life of me, I cannot find a decent saag paneer recipe anywhere. So I’d be grateful if anyone out there could send me one. Anyone?

Rice

Basmati rice

caution: blind skier

John loves the snowy mountains while I love the sunny beaches, which is why for each of our respective bachelor/bachelorette trips, we headed to our desired destination: John to Breckenridge and me to Miami. Now that we’re married, we try to appreciate the other’s preference for the outdoors. This meant I had to bundle up and face my most dreaded enemy: the cold.

John fell in love with snowboarding after he went for the first time last year. Before his bachelor trip, he had never seen real snow in his life. Born and raised in Houston, the only kind of “snow” he’d seen was the southeast Texas kind: quick flurries that came about once a decade. But ever since he got a taste of the snow and mountains, he was hooked. And so this year, whether I liked it or not, he was going to plan a trip back to Colorado.

Never in my lifetime did I think I was going to attempt snow sports again. My first ski trip occurred over 15 years ago. I went for only one day with my family. After two runs down the bunny slopes, my uncle assured me I was ready for the green (intermediate) trails. What the hell was he thinking? It took me 2.5 hours to get down those greens. Meanwhile, my cousin lapped me three times on the slopes, a pro at the tender age of six. I ripped a hole in my pants with the ski pole and at one point, even skied straight into the yellow caution tape that roped off the edge of the cliff. It was a horrible experience, and I never wanted to do it again, let alone do it blind.

But that’s exactly what I attempted this time around. I decided it was something I should do not so much for my husband but for myself. I wanted to feel capable. It was something I had to prove to myself.

The Breckenridge Outdoor Educational Center (BOEC) is a neat non-profit facility whose mission is to adapt recreational activities so that all (including those with special needs) can enjoy the outdoors. The instructors from their adaptive ski school are certified to teach and guide those that are blind or paralyzed. Originally, I was going to sign up for snowboarding, but the BOEC advised that boarding was an activity better done if I had 3+ days to spend on the slopes. Because our trip contained only two full days on the slopes, the BOEC folks suggested I try skiing first, that I’d see more success with skiing in only 48 hours. And so I listened to their better judgment and opted for skiing instead despite the nightmare experience I had a decade and a half earlier.

The first half of the first day was spent feeling out what it was like to glide around with a ski on the bottom of my foot. First, I walked around on flat snow with a ski on my left foot only. Then just my right. Finally with both of them on my feet. Then I took the magic carpet/conveyor belt to the top of the bunny slope and practiced the wedge: the wider the wedge, the slower you go. Eventually, I learned to turn and make S’s in the snow. The afternoon was spent on the green trail at Breckenridge, and I actually made it down the entire green without falling! (See my skiing skills in the below video.) Granted I was going 1 mph, but still…I was so proud of myself.

I went against my teacher’s advice the next day and tried to ski Keystone instead of sticking to Breckenridge where, as John says, the greens at Key were like the blues(one level higher than greens) at Breck. The trails were steeper, and I ended up cutting my full day lessons in half to just a morning session because I was utterly exhausted. Not only is the sport already tremendously tiring–your legs are working muscles they don’t normally work–but for me who is a beginner and blind at that, skiing made my entire body tense because I was trying so hard not to fall. In addition to that, the fact that I can’t see to focus on any one spot made me get motion sickness on both the lift and at the bottom of the mountain; whenever I’d stopped, my brain and body still felt like I was moving. Needless to say, concentrating so hard on not falling and not upchucking all over my teacher were enough for me to throw in the towel by lunchtime.

I must say, though, that my instructor, Jeff, and his assisting intern, Brian, were awesome because I only fell twice in the 1.5 days I skied. They made my experience as awesome as it could be, considering I was a turtle on the slopes and had to wear a bright orange bib that said “BLIND SKIER.” At least I wasn’t tied to the end of a rope like a sled dog.

A bonus to the Colorado trip was the reunion I had with Erin and Jenna, the two wonderful young women I met at the NMO Patient Day. In the three months that we’ve known each other, we’ve grown incredibly close, communicating either by phone or email every week, sharing the goings-on in our lives, our day-to-day routines combined with our NMO struggles. It was great to see them again and know that we were all hitting the slopes to prove something to ourselves: that in spite of the obstacles, we indeed can do it!

The BOEC does more than skiing and boarding. During the summer, there are season-appropriate sports like whitewater rafting. Go here to learn more about the BOEC. And you also don’t have to go to Colorado to do adaptive skiing. There are schools all over the U.S. and Canada. Just google your destination along with “adaptive ski school,” and you should be able to find what you’re looking for. And remember, if the Blind can Do it, so can you.

design concept: haptica braille watch

My husband told me about this a few weeks ago but stupid me forgot to blog about it, and now there’s only one day left to support the project. Doh! John and I have each individually pledged money towards the project, and I urge you on behalf of stylish blind people everywhere to do the same.

Because products for the visually impaired are such a niche market, things designed for the blind are often awkward, not well thought out, bulky, less functional. Moreover, they’re downright ugly. Why do the products need to look nice? The consumer is, after all, blind.

Before I lost my vision, like typical young women, I enjoyed looking stylish. I liked shopping for the latest trends. Why should that change after I lost my vision? One of my biggest gripes about being blind is the availability of accessories that are not only nice looking but also functional, e.g. wallets, watches, etc. Well, now there’s a chance for us blind folk to finally don something fashionable. Introducing the Haptica Braille watch, a design concept of a watch that not only looks good but allows for the blind user to check the time without disrupting others. Currently, the only watch that blind people like me can use are talking digital watches, but when I’m in class, checking the time would interrupt the discussion. And sometimes, I’m just counting down the minutes till class ends. Now with this Braille watch, I’d be able to check the time without having to listen to a mechanical voice speak the time aloud.

So please, on behalf of blind people everywhere, support this project today. They need to have $150,000 pledged by Friday, March 4 in order for the concept to enter production.

vietnamese eggrolls

Eggrolls

Crisphy cha gio on top of a bed of vermicelli

Cha gio, or Vietnamese eggrolls: one of my favorite things to eat. I can make 100 of them and nibble on them every day for weeks. I never get tired of this homemade version which is a recipe I modeled after my own mother’s. And you know mama’s home cookin’ is the best kind of cookin’ they is.

My mom used to make these as a treat every once in awhile, and they’re so good that I don’t even eat them with nuoc cham, or the fish dipping sauce that is a staple condiment for many Vietnamese. I prefer the eggrolls virgin, untouched and unmarred by any any additional sauce or lettuce or vermicelli. Of course, eating them this way makes them disappear much quicker, so I like to feed them to others with a bowl of vermicelli (bun cha gio).

This recipe is not exactly my mothers–she passed away when I was 14, an age before I became interested in cooking. But of the dozens of Saturday mornings I spent in the kitchen peeling eggroll skin after eggroll skin for her, I got to “know” the ingredients by sight and smell. It sounds a little sick, but I loved inhaling the aromatic raw meat and vegetable mixture that is to become the eggroll filling. As a matter of fact, I still do that today when I make eggrolls–that’s the only way I know if the mixture needs more fish sauce or garlic or whatever.

So eggrolls being one of the things I missed most from my mama’s kitchen after she died, I came up with my own concoction that, if my memory doesn’t fail me, tastes incredibly similar to hers. Now if only I was talented enough to figure out her homemade pho from scratch.

Eggrolls contain pork, but one time in elementary school for an international culture week, my mom substituted the ground pork with turkey because I had a Muslim classmate. Now that I have a husband who avoids beef and pork, I too make my eggrolls with ground turkey. They’re not as juicy but they’re healthier. (Well, as healthy as they can be after being submerged in the canola oil.).

I must say cha gio are my masterpiece, but they’re only made like once a year because the whole process–from chopping the veggies to wrapping the eggrolls to frying them–used to take six hours or something insane. Thank God for the food processor, which now has cut my prep and cook time down to a mere four hours. (Har, har.) Don’t let that scare you away from attempting them though; keep in mind that I’m a slow worker, not to mention blind. So remember that if I can do it, so can you. And I encourage you to try this.

Recipe: Vietnamese Eggrolls

Summary: Based on my mom’s cha gio recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground pork or turkey
  • 1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled & minced
  • 1 med. yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lg. carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 oz. dried cat ear mushroom (black fungus)
  • 6 (1.75 oz.) pkgs. dried bean thread noodles
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2/3 c. fish sauce or to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 pkgs. egg roll wrappers or rice paper
  • canola oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Soak mushrooms and noodles in hot water until tender, about 5 to 10 min. Then finely chop either with knife or food processor.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a lg. bowl and season with pepper to taste.
  3. If using eggroll wrappers, use beaten egg to seal. If using rice paper, simply wet paper and roll, using about 2 rounded spoonfuls of filling in each eggroll.
  4. Heat oil and test for readiness by dropping the tip of an eggroll into the oil. It is hot enough if it immediately begins to sizzle. Fry eggrolls until golden brown, about 4 to 7 min. each.

Quick Notes

Refrigerating the filling mixture overnight allows the flavors to meld together better.

Don’t overstuff your eggrolls or else they will either burst or not cook through.

The folding technique is as follows: if using the square eggroll wrappers, set the skin so that it is a diamond in front of you. Set the filling in the lower center of the skin. Fold the corner pointing at you up over the mixture. Then fold in the two sides. Then roll eggroll away from you, sealing the far corner with a little bit of beaten egg. If using round rice paper for skin, simply wet the banh trang in a lg. bowl of very hot water. It just needs to be immersed for a few seconds; don’t oversoak–the paper will get more and more pliable as it soaks up the water. Oversoaking the rice paper results in mushy skin that will tear easily. Place the circular skin in front of you, place the filling in the lower center of the skin. Fold in the same pattern as with the square skins, but omitting the beaten egg for sealing.

Line the cooked eggrolls on paper towels or paper bags to drain excess oil. Paper bags, I heard, do a better job of soaking up the oil without making the eggrolls soggy.

Variations

The authentic Vietnamese eggroll uses rice paper for the skin, but many use the Filipino lumpia eggroll skin nowadays. Just be sure not to use the Chinese eggroll skin; I made that mistake the first time I ever made eggrolls (yes, back in college), and the skin puffed up like a wonton crisp, which is NOT what you want.

Meal type: hors d’oerves

Culinary tradition: Vietnamese

Microformatting by hRecipe.

how to plan a wedding blind

And I mean that in all sense of the word “blind.”

A few weeks ago, one of my best friends, Joanna, got married. I was fortunate enough to return the favor of being a bridesmaid in her wedding as she was in mine. I saw her go through most of the wedding planning, and while their engagement period was a fractionof mine (8 vs. 12 months), it reminded me of how hectic the engagement period (thus, wedding planning period) can be. At the beginning of Jo’s and Danny’s, John (who had just exited the notorious engagement period) kept poking fun at Danny, saying it’s a painful rite of passage that every husband must go through. Sure enough, like all engagements, Jo’s and Danny’s were not without their share of bickering and tumultuous moments.

John and I never fought as much in our time we’d known each other until those sweet 12 months between proposal and ceremony. Men and women are programmed to function so differently, and the differences were inherent in our personalities: I was on top of things at all times, liked to be ahead of the game, had a massive Excel spreadsheet for everything, was “efficient” with all tasks, was the only bride I knew who ever followed the “to do” checklist on the Knot website all the way to game day. I put “efficient” in quotations because I understand now in hindsight that while at times I thought I was being efficient by starting on certain tasks early, I often took a long time to accomplish these tasks. Being the perfectionist, I may not have always used my time wisely, spending more time and energy on things that probably could’ve been achieved in half the time with pretty much the same result.

“Nobody will notice that anyway,” John would say. But of course, even though I (being the blind bride) wouldn’t notice, I would know.

John, on the other hand, seemed to like to wait till the last possible minute to start a task (e.g. our wedding invitations). He didn’t fret over the details, took weeks to check things off the list. In the end, I just remember breathing a humongous sigh of relief after our ceremony, knowing that on my wedding day, other people I had appointed would be taking care of all the details for me, and that as long as everyone was still alive and relatively healthy and safe through the end of our reception, then it was a success. I saw Joanna go through the whole thing, the whole wedding planning and all the spectrum of emotions that go along with the wedding planning from anxiety to excitement to annoyances to full-out tears. No doubt wedding planning is stressful for any bride, nonetheless a blind one.

Before I lost my eyesight, I was even more of a control freak than I already am. Yes, yes, I know. You find that incredibly hard to believe. But I was even more anal, even more of a perfectionist, wanting to do everything myself because, well, simply put, I just didn’t trust anybody else to do it. I liked being independent, and I deemed my own thoughts and opinions above others’. Then I lost my vision, and suddenly, I was thrown into the role of Depender. No longer could I drive myself, no longer could I see what things looked like without the aid of verbal descriptions, and even then, it was difficult. What it all taught me is that we–even the sighted people–cannot control everything in life. Sometimes, we just have to let go and let others handle it. And that’s exactly what I had to do with a lot of my wedding planning. I had to pick people I trusted (thanks, bridesmaids and house party!) who could make executive decisions for me. When we were gown shopping, I told them what I liked and didn’t like, and then I had to trust that they wouldn’t let me look ugly or stupid on my wedding day. Same thing went for hair, makeup, jewelry. Even things like cake decorations, flowers, ceremony and reception venues, bridesmaid attire, groom’s attire–all this I had to trust others like John, my bridesmaids and house party, my vendors to choose for me. In a strange way, it was liberating to plan the wedding as a blind person because I didn’t have to make a lot of decisions, deferring it to others whom I trusted. It seems as though the only decisions I really had to make were menu and music.

So I think the important thing about wedding planning (and this goes for all people but especially the sight-impaired) is to let go. Let others take care of it. Surround yourself with and choose people whom you trust to be making executive decisions on your behalf. And since it is your wedding after all, you will want to play a part in the planning process, so don’t be afraid to ask others to explain to you the visual effects of things in detail. Make sure they’re patient with this, and be patient with yourself too. Don’t be quick to frustrate both others and yourself. Remember that in the end, it’ll all come together and be fun. Enjoy your day. And last but not least, laugh.

dan’s story

In my previous post about Dan, I expressed my sadness whenI learned by a text message from his mother Reny that he had died. In lieu of flowers, the Tan family asked for donations to the Guthy Jackson Charitable Foundation in order to advance the research in NMO. Over $20,000 were donated (the largest donation the Foundation had ever received), and more than 400 people attended Dan’s funeral. What an amazing life story.

Before he was handicapped by NMO, Dan was a basketball athlete. On Sunday, the Ann Arbor news ran a story on the friendship between Dan and Darius, the point guard for Michigan. The story reminded me that great things can be born of tragedy, and I am grateful Dan’s memory not only lives on but has a positive impact on those who knew him and even those who didn’t.

where not to go for valentine’s day

Stella Sola
1001 Studewood St.
Houston, TX 77008
713-880-1001


3.5/5 bone marrows

Note: The restaurant lighting was way too dim for any quality photos so no images for this post.

For one of our Supper Club experiences, we ventured to Stella Sola, which came highly recommended by a foodie friend. The restaurant supposedly fuses local Texas ingredients with Tuscan flair, this being yet another project brought to the Houston dining scene by the same crew that brought us Reef and Little Bigs.

“You thought the bone marrow at Catalan was good? Wait till you try the marrow at Stella Sola,” Foodie Friend said.

So we did try the bone marrow at Stella Sola. But we had to wait a good long time for it. The service was incredibly slow–we must’ve waited over 30 minutes for our appetizer. The bone marrow was delicious, but I recall Catalan’s bone marrow to be superior; Stella Sola’s was not as rich, and I preferred the condiments served alongside the marrow at Catalan. Or maybe I was already grouchy from having waited too long.

For my second course, I had the “country style” pork rib with bacon braised greens, olive oil mash (whatever that is), and lemon mostarda ($23). (What is with these complicated menu descriptions anyway?) The sides seemed to me like a polenta, and I wish they would’ve just called it so and save us all a headache. The first few bites were good, but as the dinner wore on, my dish began tasting saltier and saltier. My dinner companions also noted that their dishes–a Wagyu steak (which the server described as a Texas kobe) and a local Texas fish–were nothing to rave about and definitely not worth the price.

In the end, we were lukewarm about our experience. I personally would not choose to go there again, but to be fair, I’ll usually give everything a second chance. Stella Sola seems to fall into line with my impressions of the other sister restaurants. While I liked Reef, I didn’t buy into all the rave with Little Bigs. And that’s exactly how I felt about Stella Sola: it’s good but nothing awesome.

When I told Foodie Friend that I was unimpressed with Stella Sola, she admitted that their prices dictated more of a “sitting at the bar and ordering just the bone marrow and wine” type of visit before heading elsewhere for a more suitable meal. Oh well. At least I can say I’ve tried it. But the fact that I was ambivalent about something Foodie Friend had raved about makes me wonder if I have truly transcended what is considered normal and entered into true gastronomical snobbery. That idea, too, causes me ambivalence.

why money sucks

Here is a continuation of gripes I have as a blind person. Money sucks. Not in the philosophical sense, but physically. And to be specific, I mean U.S. money sucks. To be more specific, U.S. currency sucks, i.e. the actual 75% cotton and 25% linen bills that we (if we’re fortunate) carry around in our wallets every day.

In most other countries I’ve visited, the currency takes the form of different sized (and thus, weighted) coins and different sized paper bills. While the U.S. has distinct coins with their varying sizes and ridged vs. smooth edges, all of our paper bills come in the exact same size. I as a sight-impaired individual hate this.

Today before going to lunch, I was trying to count my money so that I would have cash on hand, an attempt at avoiding the credit card dance I so often find myself doing when dining out with friends. I had to use my trusty Amigo portable CCTV to magnify each bill, and because there are at least two generations of American currency floating out there, I didn’t even know where to begin looking for the most legible number denoting denomination. It took me ten minutes to do what a sighted person would be able to do in less than ten seconds. Frustrating, to say the least. Why won’t the U.S. print different sized bills? My guess is that it would cost too much to reprint currency and properly circulate it, swapping out the old for the new. I know there are blind people who are lobbying this issue, and I think it’s only fair, especially after the ADA was established, that the visually impaired never be placed in a position where they are confused about their monies. It would aid in independence, and although it would take a special kind of asshole to rip a blind person off, why allow that chance to happen? Change the sizes of U.S. currency, America, and level the playing field for those who are sight-impaired.

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